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How Casting Director Richard Rousseau Cast 'Rust and Bone'

How Casting Director Richard Rousseau Cast 'Rust and Bone'
Photo Source: Sony Pictures Classics

“Rust and Bone,” filmmaker Jacques Audiard’s moving romantic drama based on Craig Davidson’s short story collection, boasts a thoroughly complex woman at its core: Stéphanie, a prickly orca trainer who endures horrific tragedy. As far as Audiard and casting director Richard Rousseau were concerned, there was only one actor for the part: Marion Cotillard, who snagged the world’s attention with her Oscar-winning turn in “La Vie en Rose.” Like so many others, Audiard was entranced by that performance and has wanted to work with her ever since. “The choice of Marion was very quick,” says Rousseau. “We didn’t audition any other actress for her role. The part was really meant for her. To embody that fall into hell, an icon was needed.”

On the flip side, the casting of Stéphanie’s equally complex lover—bare-knuckle fighter Ali—was a much longer process. Audiard wanted a performer with a strong, imposing physicality, so in addition to looking at actors, Rousseau and his assistants sought out real-life boxers. No one made an impression, however, until an agent told Rousseau about Matthias Schoenaerts, an impressively charismatic Belgian actor she’d just seen in a festival film called “Bullhead.” Says Rousseau, “The film had not been released yet, so I had to get a DVD for Jacques and his co-writer Thomas Bidegain so they could watch it. We immediately felt taken by [Schoenaerts’] charm.”

As for the supporting cast, says Rousseau, Audiard wanted “a mix of professional and nonprofessional actors.” The director’s previous film, the Oscar-nominated “A Prophet,” also used nonprofessional actors to great effect. “What Jacques wanted the most was a real authenticity,” explains Rousseau. Audiard was also open to changing up his initial vision of certain characters. For instance, the part of Matthias’ sister, Anna, was described in the script as “small and fat,” but Rousseau had his eye on actor Corinne Masiero, who is “thin and very tall.” He says, “Corinne is an actress I had seen a lot playing little parts in several productions and then in a superb film called ‘Louise Wimmer,’ which I worked on and in which Corinne had the lead role. She was shooting and was not able to travel for an audition, so I asked her to film her audition using Cyril Mennegun, [the director of ‘Louise Wimmer’]. Jacques chose her right away after watching her tape.”

It is this openness to unconventional ideas, says Rousseau, that makes casting Audiard’s films such a treat. “On the casting of Jacques’ films, we can aim to break any cliché, and this is so stimulating.”

Casting Director: Richard Rousseau
Director: Jacques Audiard
Writers: Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain, based on the book by Craig Davidson
Starring: Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts, Armand Verdure, Céline Sallette, Corinne Masiero, Bouli Lanners, Jean-Michel Correia
The Pitch: After losing her legs in an accident, a beautiful whale trainer (Cotillard) becomes entwined with a formidable nightclub bouncer (Schoenaerts).

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