Marion Cotillard isn’t someone who believes in New Year’s resolutions.
“Along the way in life, I discover things about myself, so I never wait until January 1 to tell myself, ‘OK, I’m going to quit this, I’m going to start [that]’,” explains the French actress.
And her desire to continuously challenge herself is why she signed up for the big-screen adaptation of the blockbuster video-game series Assassin’s Creed.
“I’ve had the chance to explore many worlds, so why not some world I haven’t explored? This is what I love, to enter the unknown,” says Cotillard, 41, who’s pregnant with her second child - a sibling for five-year-old son Marcel - with her partner Guillaume Canet, and dressed for comfort in leather-look trousers, T-shirt and a checked shirt.
In Assassin’s Creed, she plays Sofia Rikkin, the lead scientist at the mysterious Abstergo facility, who introduces Cal (Michael Fassbender), a convict facing capital punishment, to the Animus Project.
Using revolutionary technology, she unlocks the generic memories contained in Cal’s DNA in order to send him back to 15th Century Spain, where he lives out the memories of a distant relative, Aguilar de Nerha, a member of a secret society known as the Assassins.
By harnessing these moments, Sofia believes she will find a cure for violence.
“She thinks she’s working for a noble cause. She’s trying to improve the human race and discover what ignites violence in a human being,” explains the actress, who won an Oscar in 2008 for her role as Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose.
Cotillard wasn’t familiar with the video game before landing a part in the film. “And I still haven’t played, because you need time to be able to drive your avatar,” she notes.
“But the concept of the game, that your DNA allows you to go back in time and explore the genetic memories of your ancestors, I thought it was fascinating,” she adds.
The film also allowed her the opportunity to reunite with Fassbender, who produced the movie, and director Justin Kurzel, following their success on 2015’s Macbeth.
“I had an amazing experience working with them on Macbeth, and to get on board knowing the experience will be on that level of joy is something I couldn’t miss. So even before I read the script, I wanted to be part of the project.”
And that’s despite a certain mishap on the final day of the Shakespearean shoot, when Kurzel managed to lose Cotillard in a swamp.
“We were in the Isle Of Skye, the weather was brutal and the wind forced me down. It took four people to put me back on my feet,” she recalls, laughing.
Fortunately, the elements were easier to cope with on their second collaboration, and not only in relation to the weather. Cotillard admits she felt less anxious this time round.
“I was so stressed out on Macbeth. I had a lot of pressure on my shoulders, because I was French and I was taking on such an iconic role [Lady Macbeth] that a lot of amazing British actresses could’ve done perfectly,” she admits.
“This pressure never left me during the whole shoot, so having the opportunity to work on a totally different project with less stress was something I really enjoyed.”
Born in Paris to father Jean-Claude, an actor, director and playwright, and Niseema Theillaud, an actress and drama teacher, it’s no surprise she made her acting debut at a young age, and recalls wistfully how she’d watch old movies as a child.
“I was fascinated by Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis,” says Cotillard, who reveals her recent role as Marianne in the Forties-set spy thriller Allied reminded her of these women.