Cotillard: Piaf in 'Rose' is 'magnificent role'

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French actress Marion Cotillard emerged radiant in Berlin on Thursday from her physically demanding -- sometimes even disfiguring -- portrayal of Gallic songstress Edith Piaf in opening film "La Vie en Rose."

Cotillard was welcomed at a packed afternoon press conference to applause and several calls of "Bravo!" for her tour-de-force performance in the competition movie directed by Olivier Dahan.

"It's a magnificent role for me. I had to play Piaf from age 19 to 47," the actress said. "Olivier and I wanted to do more than just an impersonation of Piaf: We wanted to give her life. I used a sort of immersion technique. The films in which she acted helped enormously to study her gestures."

Cotillard said she'd had a good deal of apprehension about playing the role, especially since Piaf had "a physique of someone who was 70 when she was 47." Besides mimicking Piaf's distinctively powerful singing style and capturing her rasping voice, Cotillard is required to portray drug addiction, arthritis, a disfiguring slouch and general failing health.

"Several scenes were very difficult, like the scene in which she dies. If you lay it on too much, it gets ridiculous." But it was miming to Piaf's singing voice that was hardest. "That's what took the most work, because if it's done badly, you come out of the film."

Cotillard said that after four months in the skin of the diminutive warbler, it took a while for her to readjust. "If you walk with a cane for four months, it's not easy to walk straight afterwards," she said.

Supporting actors Emanuelle Seigner, Sylvie Testud, Pascal Greggory, Clotide Coureau and Jean-Pierre Martins were also on the podium, along with Alain Goldman, who produced the film under his Legende banner. Gerard Depardieu, who plays the impresario who discovered Piaf on the streets of Paris, was notably absent from the line-up.

The film's talent was due to attend the festival opening-night party last night after the gala screening, before moving onto a private dinner hosted by German distributor Constantin Film.

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