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Marion Cotillard on 'Allied' and not giving up hope after the election

"Even when the package smells like s—, we have to see what kinds of positive things can come out of it."

In the World War II romantic thriller “Allied,” Marion Cotillard gets to do a few things she hasn’t done much onscreen before. She gets to shoot a gun. She gets to play a spy. But she brings her usual emotional intensity and humanity to a very tricky role. The Oscar-winning actress plays a French resistance fighter who meets and falls in love with a Canadian intelligence officer (Brad Pitt). They marry but, once confined to domestic life in London, Pitt’s character gets a disturbing brief: It’s discovered his wife may be leaking intelligence to the Nazis. But he refuses to believe the woman who bore his young daughter could be a double agent.

Cotillard, 41, talks to us about making an unusual war film, her fear of guns and staying positive after the American election.

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How have you been holding up since we elected Donald Trump?
I’m a very, very positive person. I think we all have to learn from this and question ourselves deeply. We can’t just be devastated, especially not now. Everybody has to take responsibility, but also take action. We have the chance to analyze our consciences and question ourselves. This is an opportunity to go towards unity instead of the other way.

I’m with you, but I’m going to stew in sadness for a bit longer, then get back on the horse.
We should take everything as a gift. Even when the package smells like s—, pardon my French [laughs], we have to see what kinds of positive things can come out of it.

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It’s uneasy watching a World War II movie like “Allied” right now, because one worry is that we’ll once again soon be a world at war.
Well, we’re already a world where there are wars, even if our society is pretty much safe. There isn’t a war in front of our eyes, though in France there is a lot of terrorism. This movie takes place in World War II, which was a terrifying and horrible war. But I still have hope that we can deal with these issues without having a world war today.

You see what war does to the married couple here. Things are so bad that they can’t even be 100 percent sure if they can trust each other, even though their love is real.
When you put people in extreme situations, it reveals a lot about their personalities. Especially for a woman, who has to protect her family. This was what fascinated [screenwriter] Steven Knight — this idea of how can love withstand betrayal? Love is one of the strongest feelings. Even when love is strong and is authentic, it still has to face certain obstacles.

It’s an unusual war film, because it’s one without big battles.
Yeah, but it’s still a movie about battles. But the battles are inside those characters.

You still get to shoot a gun, though. I don’t think you’d ever done that onscreen before, though correct me if I’m wrong.
Not in a movie. I think I shot guns in a TV film one or two times. But I’m not used to guns at all. I hate them. But that was a fun day.

I’m scared of guns, too, but I understand why we’re drawn to seeing them used in movies. It’s like indulging in something you’d never do in real life.
I don’t mind watching movies with guns either, I have to say. But when you have a gun in your hands, that raises a lot of questions. It’s an object that can kill someone, that is made to kill people. Of course, a car can kill people, a knife can kill people. But killing people isn’t the first purpose of those objects. When you have a gun in your hands, that’s a killing object. It’s totally different.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge
 
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