George Clooney has been a Hollywood mainstay ever since Dr. Doug Ross arrived at the ER hospital back in the 1990s. Since then, he’s gone on to have the kind of career that would make even De Niro weep, appearing in everything from The Coen Brother’s ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou’ to Alfonso Cuarón’s jaw-dropping space-drama, Gravity. Those two films sit at either end of what was an incredibly diverse decade of work for old Clooners, so when he was asked to name the best performance of the 2000s in an interview in 2010, I wouldn’t have blamed him for staring down the barrel of the lens and saying: ‘well its gotta be me, right?’ In reality, however, he named one of France’s greatest living actresses.
“The best performance I think I’ve seen in the last ten years, strangely. is Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose,“ Clooney began, having mulled over the question for some time. Released in 2007, the Olivier Dahan-directed biopic saw Cotillard portray iconic French Singer Edith Piaf, whose career flourished during the Nazi occupation of Paris in the 1940s.
Explaining the genius behind Cotillard’s performance, Clooney said: “It’s very hard to do what she did, which was to play an old person – people are always kinda like [cackles like a withered old crone] when they do old people.”
Adding: “Actors, when they play old people, try to look old, and old people try to look young. And she looked every bit like she was 70-years-old, but she looked like she was trying to be young.” It really is quite astonishing to see how easily Cottilard manages to inhabit Piaf, a woman who, by the 1950s, was crippled by years of alcohol abuse.
Clooney wasn’t the only one impressed by Cottilard’s performance. Having been chosen to play Piaf on the basis that she had the singer’s same eyes, on release, many people said that Cotillard had successfully reincarnated Piaf – giving the world the chance to see her perform on stage one last time. “She was so good in that film, from beginning to end – the whole way through,” Clooney continued.
Adding: “I actually really like that film as well. I’d say, of the last decade, I’d put that up there as one of the best performances”.
The Oscars panel thought so too, giving Cottilard the Academy Award for Best Actress, a victory that made her the first Best Actress winner for a non-English film since Italian Actress Sophia Loren in 1961.