This was the second time I’ve met Cottin in the course of a couple of months. During our first encounter, she was expansive and carefree, chatting about her favorite local purveyors of caviar and cheeses and about her children—she has two, a 10-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl, with her architect partner Benjamin. Today, she is just as lovely, but, whether it’s the misadventures of Les Bleus, the unstinting rain, or pre-premiere nerves, her energy is more pensive. We talk about the complicated commute Cottin has been making between Paris and London (where she’s filming Killing Eve), and joke about the recent news that the British health secretary has been caught kissing an aide on CCTV and, thus, fired for breaking social-distancing rules (“Hilarious!” Cottin says). But, when the subject turns to podcasts, Cottin gets unexpectedly serious. “I really love this one called Les Chemins de la Philosophie,” she says. The show, she explains, starts with a snippet of a song or film and “quite quickly becomes very abstract…touching the echoes of existence and the vertigo of living and the spectrum of death.” Cottin has insomniac tendencies,
she says, but the show helps her sleep better than any pill.
In less than two weeks, Cottin is set to walk the red carpet at Cannes—in a black Dior sheath slit nearly to the peplum—for the premiere of Stillwater, a cross-cultural thriller, set in Marseille. Cottin stars in it as Virginie, a bohemian single mother who becomes involved with Bill Baker (Matt Damon), a laconic Oklahoma oil-rig worker who is dead set on exonerating his American daughter of a murder she may or may not have committed. “It’s a weird thing when you’re in a scene with somebody and you’re constantly checking in with them,” Damon says. “But there are actors you’re in a scene with, and you can just go somewhere else. The only way I can put it is that they’re good enough for both of you. I never doubted a thing Camille did.”
Tom McCarthy, Stillwater’s director, calls Cottin “the glue” of the film, the person who connects each character to the others. “It’s almost like she’s the host,” he says. In Marseille, where Cottin’s Algeria-born mother once lived, she literally was. (Her pro tip on Marseille real estate: “To find a flat, you’ve got to look up.”) McCarthy recalls, “We all kind of looked to Camille, as the senior French cast member, for traditions. She told us that every Friday night, one of us has to take the crew out to drink beer. She’s like, ‘I’m gonna do it tonight. You do it next Friday night.’ ” McCarthy adds, “It’s really exciting to see where she can go right now, because I think she’s just going to explode. She’s put in the work, and it shows.”