Parisian actress Marion Cotillard has been the toast of Tinseltown since her Oscar-nominated turn in the Edith Piaf biopic La Vie en Rose. Aside from her physical transformation, Cotillard is praised for her effortless lip-synching throughout some of Piaf’s most memorable performances.
What audiences might not know however, is that it wasn’t the voice of this famous French songbird that was heard in the movie, but that of another experienced French chanteuse: Ms. Jil Aigrot. Together Cotillard and Aigrot brought Edith Piaf to life on-screen.
As a touring Piaf performer herself, Aigrot found herself on familiar terrain when she took up her role in the movie. Previously an actress, Aigrot has recently thrown herself into the performance that brought her to the big screen in the first place—releasing “Words of Love,” a collection which includes Aigrot’s interpretations of nearly 20 of Piaf’s most noteworthy songs. Before taking off for her U.S. tour, the French singer took the time to explain to MM how she became of one Piaf’s biggest fans and what it takes to inhabit the role of one of her country’s most famous songstresses.
Mallory Potosky (MM): Before your role in La Vie en Rose you had acted on a few of France’s popular television shows. Had you any previous experience with movies or desire to be a part of them?
Jil Aigrot (JA): Yes, I participated in many different TV shows in France. I was an actress in a TV series with Pierce Brosnan (“Remington Steele”) and I am fascinated by cinema. I would love to be in a film with Johnny Depp or George Clooney!
MM: What was the process for recording the songs for this film? Was your work pre-recorded? Did you have any role in the filming?
JA: The songs were recorded in studios in Paris and London with an orchestra of 50 musicians. Everything was pre-recorded. I was involved in the post-production work as well.
MM: What was it that first drew you to study and learn Edith Piaf’s songs?
JA: I never had to learn Piaf’s song. My mother was a big fan of Piaf. All throughout my childhood I listened to her songs and my mother was constantly singing them. So I knew of Piaf’s repertoire when I was contacted to be the “voice of the movie.”
MM: You travel the world performing in your own Piaf persona. What do you find is the key ingredient to making a performance as Piaf as believable as possible?
JA: I feel the ingredients of a show’s success are the songs themselves. Most of them would be qualified as “hits” nowadays and are known worldwide. In addition, my voice is very similar to Piaf’s voice and on stage I try to sing and move like Piaf used to do. When I sing I try to transmit my passion and my emotions to the audience.
Photo of Marion Cotillard courtesy of Picturehouse.