Marion Cotillard

If ever there was a born actress, it's Marion Cotillard and her upbringing in the business helped take her all the way to an Oscar.

When Marion Cotillard was acting alongside Daniel Day-Lewis in Nine, the film of the stage musical of the same name, he gave her some advice. It was simple enough: "Take care of my life. Don't work too much. He's right. There are so many things that I want to do, that I don't do, that I could do, but sometimes I'm too tired after a working day."

The 34-year-old French actress, who won an Oscar for her utterly convincingly portrayal of the late singer Edif Piaf in La Vie En Rose , doesn't do things by halves. Nine director Rob Marshall has said that, as Luisa Contini the wife of Daniel Day-Lewis's character, film director Guido Contini Cotillard was not only able to sing and dance but also to develop her part into an amazingly complex portrait of her character. "When you went into the rehearsal room, there she would be, working and working. She was just living the role. Daniel Day-Lewis was absolutely blown away by her, as I was."

Although she clearly likes the sound of Day-Lewis's "take it easy" advice, Cotillard may find it a challenge to be anything other than a committed actor. In Public Enemies, director Michael Mann's film in which Johnny Depp is legendary Chicago gangster John Dillinger and Cotillard his girlfriend Evelyn "Billie" Frechette, she undertook more research than most actors would even contemplate. She also trained herself to speak in a French-Canadian-Wisconsin accent and, during the three-month shoot, would only speak English to family and friends.

It should therefore be no surprise that Cotillard is from French acting stock. Both her parents are actors and at the age of five she had made her debut in a family friend's production. At 15 she attended the Conservatoire d'art Dramatique in her home town of Orleans and after graduating quickly made a name for herself in French feature and TV films notably in director Luc Besson's hugely successful Taxi series.

Yet it wasn't until she won the Oscar for her role as Piaf that Cotillard became an international star. She may be beautiful, but it is her apparent ability to lose herself in a range of roles that made her the toast of Hollywood. Next up is a role in Christopher Nolan's sci-fi epic Inception, in which she will star opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. Perhaps she is taking Day-Lewis's advice after all, as she has recently said that she needs "to have some time to do all the things I really care for. So at that point I will have to sit, be pregnant, and do a lot of things! That's the plan."

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