BEVERLY HILLS - Marion Cotillard really wanted to work with Jacques Audiard.  In fact, she was so committed to the director's follow up to his acclaimed drama "A Prophet" that she dropped her normal required prep time to make sure "Rust and Bone" fit into her schedule.  The Oscar winner was already locked into shooting Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises" for much of 2011, but then immediately transitioned to "Bone" when it was over. And, for Cotillard, taking away that chance to really research and study a role is a big, big deal.

"As Jacques tells you he usually works a lot with the actors before he starts shooting and I usually have a long period of preparation because I love it. And because I [just don't] need it, but, also because I love it," Cotillard says.  "If I had needed more time to achieve something in the preparation…I don't think I could have done the movie.  I could not have [arrived] on set thinking 'Omigod, I'm not prepared and I won't find this part that I need.' But I thought it would be a different way of working for him, for me and I was confident we could do something out of not having time to [prepare as we would have liked]."

At first glance, Cotillard's remarks might seem like a stereotypical actor taking their work way too seriously, but that's simply not the case. In "Bone," Cotillard plays Stephanie, an aquatic show director who becomes severely crippled after an Orca whale lose control and attacks her during a performance.  Now, in just four years, the French actress has already demonstrated her talent with an Academy Award-winning turn in "La Vie En Rose" and roles in films such as Christopher Nolan's "Inception," Michael Mann's "Public Enemies" and Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris." It's her incredible work in "Bone," however, that should find her back in the Dolby Theater vying for yet another Oscar statue.

One reason Cotillard says she didn't need as much time researching what appears to be a role that begs for investigation is because she experienced how to handle a disability on the same learning curve that her character has in the script.  Cotillard explains, "I think if I had had time it would have been the same, because when I started watching footage of amputees I didn't need it. Because it's just happened in her life. It would have been totally different ifI had a character that had been [an amputee] for 10 years. I would have had to really learn a new way of -- the body language would have been totally different. But, in this case, it's fresh. So, I thought I would learn with her."

"Bone" was shot at France's only aquatic park, Marineland in Antibes.  Cotillard visited the facility twice before production began and admits she practically cried the whole time.  She recalls, "It was ridiculous. I don't understand how we do that as human beings. Take these magnificent animals and take them out of their environment. I was not scared of the whales and when I went beyond my anger, I had a good connection. A good relationship with them."

That's not to say Audiard's drama is all pain and suffering.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  One of the film's more euphoric and unexpected moments is when Stephanie reenacts the choreography from her aquatic show in her wheel chair to very recognizable song, Katy Perry's "Firework." It marks a moment of triumph for a character that feels she's finally mastering her new environment.  

"I didn't really know that song before we shot the movie," Cotillard says. "There is something very moving in the melody of that song and it really helped me. It didn't make me smile, but it's unexpected. And we took that song because it was what they use in the Marineland, but I think it's a perfect fit."

You can hear more from Cotillard on "Bone" and, in particular, a "real" conversation with a whale in one of the film's more memorable scenes in the video embedded at the top of this post.

"Rust and Bone" opens in New York on Nov. 23 and in Los Angeles on Dec. 7.