In "Rust and Bone," Marion Cotillard turns in a startling, moving performance as a killer whale trainer at Marineland -- a Sea World-type amusement in the south of France -- who loses her legs after an on-the-job accident. But playing a double-amputee wasn't nearly as difficult for the Oscar-winning actress as simply visiting the real-life Marineland. "I don't feel comfortable in a place like that," she admits.
"On my first day I arrived five minutes before the show. I watched it and I thought it was horrifying," she remembers. "And then my trainer turned to me after the show and said, 'Did you like it?' And I thought, how am I going to answer? Am I going to lie, am I going to tell the truth? And I couldn't lie. I said, 'No, I hated it, but I don't want you to think I'm disrespectful.'"
That didn't mean she could connect with her character and feel at home in her wetsuit, though. "Those people, they have a passion. They're passionate about what they do, they love the animals, so they made my job easy because passion is contagious," she says. "But I will never go back to Marineland."
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A lot of Cotillard's discomfort with the establishment reminds her of another film, "Finding Nemo," and the unintended consequences of its popularity. "There was an explosion of sales of clownfish after that movie. That was something that I really couldn't understand," she says. "The story of the movie is telling the audience don't take them out to put them in an aquarium, and that's exactly what happened. So sometimes, I don't know. I really wonder if those Sea World, Marineland places really make a difference."
"Rust and Bone" posed some physical challenges along with the ethical ones for Cotillard, but as it turns out those involved sea life as well. Cotillard remembers a day filming her character's revelatory swim far out from shore, relearning to trust in her abilities following her debilitating accident. "First of all it was freezing -- it was late October," she says. "The camera was not working, and I knew that if I went back on the boat it would take longer, so I stayed in the water, and a jellyfish [stung] me. And man, it burns. And I didn't allow anyone to pee on me."
Jacques Audiard on animal cruelty
Director Jacques Audiard is no stranger to utilizing pop music in his work, but moviegoers still might find it jarring to hear Katy Perry’s “Firework” popping up regularly — and loudly — in the first half of his latest, “Rust and Bone.”
The song serves as the backdrop for an orca show at the Marineland aquarium, where Marion Cotillard’s Stephanie coaxes the massive whales into performing tricks.
And Audiard insists he was just being authentic. “Katy Perry is the actual music of the show,” he says. “And when you think about those animals — four times a day, they have to listen to Katy Perry. And that’s animal cruelty right there!”
Cotillard is quick to stick up for Perry though, having had to listen to the track almost as much as the whales. “I kind of like Katy Perry now,” she insists. “I kind of love her, so I’m defending her.”