'Rust and Bone' actors dig deep

French actress Marion Cotillard attends the press conference of "De Rouille et D'Os"...

French actress Marion Cotillard attends the press conference of "De Rouille et D'Os" (Rust and Bone) presented in competition at the 65th Cannes film festival on May 17, 2012 in Cannes. (AFP PHOTO/ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT)

Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:19 PM ET

You can't hide the truth. The vivacious French superstar Marion Cotillard, who won an Oscar playing Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose, shed her glamour, but not her sensuality, to headline a new French drama called Rust and Bone.

That is because her character, an Orca trainer at a marineland on the French Riviera, wakes up after a horrible accident to find both legs amputated at the knee.

Rust and Bone (De Rouille et d'Os) then tells the fascinating tale of how this woman reconstructs her life and reconnects with her sexuality in the aftermath of the tragedy.

"One just tries to imagine that one doesn't have any legs any more," Cotillard said with a matter-of-fact shrug at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday.

Rust and Bone, which is a superb film, vaulted into contention for the Palme d'Or as best film as soon as it was screened as a Thursday gala. It was directed by Jacques Audiard, last seen at Cannes with another masterwork, A Prophet (Un Prophete). That racially charged prison drama won the Grand Jury Prize and then scored an Oscar nom.

Audiard told a press conference he had no problem casting Cotillard, although he had to wedge his project in between some of her big Hollywood studio movies.

"I was overwhelmed by some of her films," Audiard said. "She is a very sensual yet virile actress. There are many actors and actresses but there are very few who can plunge into a character the way Marion does."

Cotillard's character interacts with a thug bare-knuckle fighter who turns out to have more depth than anyone imagined, including himself. The role is played by breakout Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts.

Cotillard dared to compare Schoenaerts' talent to that of Leonardo Di Caprio and Daniel Day Lewis.

"He is of that ilk. An actor becomes totally committed to a project and then there is the talent. Matthias is a tremendous actor. I think he can play all sorts of parts. I wish him a stupendous career."

The intriguing twist is that Hollywood has also noticed the beefy Belgian, who speaks excellent English.

"Funny you should say," Schoenaerts said of the notion of going Hollywood. "Last week they called me for Rambo 34, but I said I would only do it if I also got 35 and 36."

This guy could be the next big action star in Hollywood. He has the look, the size, the heft and the moves. He even has brains to go with the brawn. And what a shock that would be in future Hollywood action pics -- to have a real actor who can play the superhero roles with emotional depth.


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