The 37-year-old’s latest role in Jacques Audiard’s French drama Rust And Bone, a film that she’s proud to be involved in, labelling two-time Cesar Award winner Audiard a “genius”.
“I really wanted to work with Jacques and when I got the call that he wanted to meet with me, I totally went crazy,” she recalls.
“When I read the script, I realised it was something I had never done before. I don’t tell many love stories and this one is very unusual. I totally fell in love with all the characters.”
Cotillard’s character is Stephanie, a whale trainer who loses her legs following a workplace accident. The film charts her journey as she learns to live as a paraplegic, with the help of Ali, a drifter and father-of-one, played by Matthias Schoenaerts.
“I didn’t do any research about what it is to have lost a part of your body, because what was very important for me was that what she gained after the accident was much more than what she’d lost,” she explains.
As for the CGI wizards who made her legs disappear on screen, she says: “We were lucky to work with amazing people – the special effects people were very talented, very discreet and very fast. So the fact that I had legs never was an issue.
“We had this first image one day when I was doing fittings, and I sat in the wheelchair with my legs folded and we had this image that was very strong and powerful, and that told us that it would work.”
Cotillard’s performance has already garnered some early Oscar buzz, but she would rather “stay away” from awards talk.
“It makes me very happy that people like the movie and what I did in it – that is what’s important,” she says. “Awards are something you have to enjoy, but the expectation is not part of my way of living.”
Rust And Bone opens in cinemas today