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Posted at 10:42 AM ET, 03/ 4/2008

Highbrow: Marion Cotillard -- Once Sound-bitten

By Liz Kelly

In a scene from the 1950 Bette Davis classic, "All About Eve," Davis is chastened by an irate playwright who -- reacting to a diva-esque monologue from Davis -- asks (and I paraphrase) "what happens when actors start thinking that the insightful words coming out of their mouths are their own?" The implication was, of course, that actors are nothing without words being fed to them and that the actor who confuses adulation with respect is treading on dangerous ground.


A mural in Los Angeles. (Getty Images)

As dangerous ground goes, Marion Cotillard should win some kind of long jump award for jumping clear from the Olympian heights of a lead actress Oscar win all the way to the shifting ground of public opinion in just one short week. I hesitate to write about this because it takes us out of our safety zone of light celebrity mocking and into an exploration of our national psyche, but Cotillard's case is an instructive one and lots of interesting stuff is being written about this.

Cotillard, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose," sparked an uproar when she was quoted as saying that she wasn't sure about the official explanation of the 2001 attacks on New York's World Trade Center or the 1969 moon landing. A spokesman for the actress says her year-old remarks were taken out of context and that Cotillard never intended to deny that the attacks happened:

"On February 16, 2007, I appeared on a late night French television program,'Paris Dernière.' In the last 48 hours, my statements on that program have been taken completely out of context and been crafted into a story that has no merit. The conversation on the talk show included a dialogue about conspiracy theories. At no point did I intend to contest the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, one of the most tragic days in all of history. Nonetheless, I sincerely regret if my comments offended or hurt anyone."

Should Cotillard be condemned as a "cheese eating surrender monkey" (as one Celebritology commenter put it yesterday) or a star not yet accustomed to the culture of the sound byte? TMZ.com described the actress yesterday as "Oscar bitch Marion Cotillard." The L.A. Times's Tom O'Neil says that had the comments been released prior to the Academy Awards, the Oscar would probably have gone to someone less controversial. And New York Magazine's online Intelligencer used Cotillard as an example of how to destroy a budding career.

Here's the thing -- if, as Cotillard says, she was discussing conspiracy theories in general, was what she said tactless or thoughtless enough to warrant a "Freedom Fry"-sized backlash? It isn't as if Marion is alone in her speculation about 9/11. In fact, several polls -- including this 2006 NYT/CBS poll found that more than half of the Americans polled think the Bush administration was not giving us the whole story on the 9/11 attacks -- lead one to believe that Cotillard's opinion isn't necessarily out of the mainstream.

So, you tell me -- is this a drummed up attempt to tarnish Cotillard's image? Or will she be banished back to the (freeing? creative? interesting?) dustbin of foreign films?

By Liz Kelly  | March 4, 2008; 10:42 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities, Highbrow  
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