Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts and Jacques Audiard Talk New Film “Rust and Bone”
November 27, 2012 by Dana Feldman
by Dana Feldman
Director Jacques Audiard’s agonizing love story “Rust and Bone” (Sony Pictures Classics) stars Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts in performances so mesmerizing and accolade-deserving they hold you in their grasp long after the credits have rolled. “What came first,” Audiard explains, “was the desire to tell a love story.”
Cotillard, explaining that she explores every bit of a character, recalls her immediate reaction to the script. “I loved Stephanie right away, but I have to say that I didn’t really understand her. From the beginning, she was a mystery — not one to be solved entirely.” At first afraid of admitting this to Audiard, his response reassured her. “He said ‘Well you know, it’s the same for me. I don’t know who she is and we’re going to have to take the road together and find her and give her life.’ That was very exciting for me. At the end, there’s still some mystery to Stephanie.”
Audiard explains that he took Cotillard’s concerns and uncertainty as a plus. “That’s the story of the movie. There’s this girl and bam she has no legs! It’s entirely new to Stephanie, and it’s better if it’s entirely fresh to you.” The process of filming the love scenes, he says, was a challenge. “For a long time I’ve pondered the problem of the representation of physical love. The sexual chemistry between Ali and Stephanie transcends her disability.”
“I researched and watched videos of amputees,” Cotillard says. One particular direction from Audiard was invaluable to her. “Sometimes part of her refuses the situation so she’ll try to stand up and she’ll forget that she has no legs and she’ll fall. It made me feel the part.” Though technically the amputations were achieved with CGI, what was most important to Cotillard was the flesh, bones, sexual and violent physicality of the role.
Portraying an amputee wasn’t the only difficult part for her. “The scene where I had to swim in the sea was the most difficult. It was late October and the water was freezing, the camera wasn’t working and a jellyfish bit me. Man, that burns!” The most emotionally trying scene, she says, was the one in which her character has sex for the first time after losing her legs. “I felt something that I’ve never felt before. I felt very strongly for my character. I was very moved and so happy for her.” Trying to further understand the role she turned to Audiard who told her that Stephanie was a cowboy. “I thought it was kind of genius. She turned anger into power, isn’t that a cowboy? In the end I didn’t expect to feel so moved by her.”
Appreciative that she gets to move between the worlds of blockbusters to smaller films, she adds, “I feel very lucky that I get to travel from one very special universe to another. I just need to work with directors that have a need to tell a good story. You feel the love that Jacques has for his story and the characters. It’s so strong. It’s very, very inspiring. He’s a poet.”
Inspired by Craig Davidson’s collection of gripping short stories entitled “Rust and Bone”, Audiard and co-writer Thomas Bidegain explain their creative process. “We took ideas from his stories as a point of departure and wove them into a new story. Davidson’s collection already seems to belong to the prehistory of the project, but the power and brutality of our tale, our desire to use drama to magnify our characters, all have their immediate source in those stories.”
Wanting an expressionistic type of cinematography they used the power of stark, brutal and clashing images in order to further the melodrama. “We had in mind an echo of the Great Depression. We thought of old amateur county-fair films, of the dark reality in those surreal visuals.” This type of aesthetic, both claim, is what continuously guided them as they wrote the screenplay. Audiard further explains, “We were obsessed with the idea that the strength of the images would render this a painting of passions, extreme situations, extreme feelings. We wanted to find a brutal and contrasting aesthetic.”
Schoenaerts character Ali finds himself with a five-year-old son, Sam (Armand Verdure), that he hardly knows or knows how to handle. Homeless and penniless he takes shelter with his sister, Anna (Corinne Masiero) in the South of France’s Antibes. Per Schoenaerts, “Ali is not always the most sympathetic guy; the audience isn’t going to identify with him straight away. But there’s something about his sincerity, his simplicity, that’s genuinely attractive.” After trying out various ways to portray the role, he explains a certain childlike streak in Ali that made him feel more real and believable. “He was someone Stephanie could love. He goes from being an emotional zero to surrendering to love.”
Of his characters matter-of-fact reactions the first time he speaks to Stephanie after her accident, “He doesn’t have any social or emotional codes. He responds in an intuitive way, everything for him is a reflex. He’s a guy to me that’s very simple and straightforward. He has no hidden agenda and is very genuine, pure and honest. Though things can come out the wrong way, underneath he’s a guy needing love period.”
“When you have nothing what is there left to sell? There’s your body, so he fights.” Schoenaerts says of his character’s decision to fight to make a living. “And somehow he needs the pain. He’s unable to feel his emotional level, but the fights bring it to life, that’s where he feels he has a body. When he hits or gets hit, he feels it, there’s something happening. Then Stephanie just breaks his heart open. It’s a story of two lost souls and destiny unites these people. They have this weird relationship and they get under each other’s skin and rediscover life together.”
“Rust and Bone” opened in New York on November 23rd and will open in Los Angeles on December 7th before opening nationally. Watch the movie trailer here.