Rust and Bone: Jacques Audiard

The estimable French director is known for his arty yet accessible films that have won him critical respect and top prizes in various film festivals.

Career of Highlights
Audiard explored revisionist history post World War II in “A Self-Made Hero.” The fillm won the Best Screenplay prize at the 1994 Cannes Film Fest.

He then brought an ex-convict and a nearly deaf woman together in “Read My Lips.”
Audiard touched a chord with audiences with his original musical drama “The Beat That My Heart Skipped.”

In what’s arguably his best and deepest film, “A Prophet,” Audiard explored the inner workings of prison life. “A Prophet” earned him an Oscar nomination for the Best Foreign Language film.

Now, Audiard is back with “Rust & Bone,” a story about the friendship and love between an unlikely couple: A physically-challenged whale trainer, played by Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard, and financially and emotionally-challenged boxer, played by Matthias Schoenaerts.

Film’s Origins
Jacques Audiard: The film is based on a short story by Craig Davidson, which it was a literary pleasure to read. I hadn’t read a short story that affected me so much in a long time. I was working on my last movie, A Prophet, and I talked about it with my screenwriter and that’s when it became a film project.

Each of my films tends to produce the next one. The whole men’s society–prison, minuscule scenery with no light and no women in “A Prophet”–after that we wanted to create a love story, with light and wide screen shots.

Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts
Audiard: I knew one day I’d work with Marion. It wasn’t Marion or someone else. It was just Marion. I didn’t imagine anyone else in the role.

As for Matthias, at first I looked for non-professional actor. I looked in boxing rings and in gyms. I saw a lot of great people, but I decided it would be too complicated with someone at Marion’s level. My casting director showed me “Bullhead,” and I chose Matthias based on that.

Making Films for French or International Audiences
Audiard: My impression is that I make very French films. I never have made any films outside of France, the characters speak French. I don’t see myself filming realities other than those that I try to understand in France.

Balancing Art with Entertainment.
Audiard: I make films that are both auteur-driven and also entertainment. As a filmmaker and film lover, I’m made of this mix of entertaining films and pure auteur cinema. Everything pleases me, everything enchants me.

Anti-Hero as Main Character
Audiard: When you’re telling a story, the characters need to start from the bottom in order to have any dramatic progression. Perhaps characters interest me more when they’re at their lowest points. Maybe virility interests me more when it’s defeated. Maybe the body interests me more when it is dented. Dramatically, it’s better to start from a hero who is struggling in order for the margin of the dramatic progression to be interesting. I like to start with people whose heroic value isn’t obvious, an anti-hero maybe.

Father-Son Relationships as ThemeAudiard: My film is more about a father who doesn’t know he’s a father.
The relationship he has to his son is more a relationship of a severe big brother. At the end, he discovers three things: One is the love for a woman, two is the love for his son, and three is the fact that this boy is his son. It’s about paternity. It’s about a guy learning to admit he’s a father, that he didn’t realize before.

Unpredictable Plot
Audiard: I’ve written scripts with more plot and detail. This story was so unbelievable to begin with (whales, amputation, boxing), so I wanted the script to be believable. We wanted to write a movie where in each scene, we couldn’t predict what would happen next. We wanted it to flow naturally and be very unpredictable. It’s hard to summarize it.