Blood Ties boasts an A-list cast with a wide range of backgrounds and relationships

Marion Cotillard, Clive Owen and Zoe Saldana talk about their latest film, Blood Ties, a remake of a 2008 French thriller.

Clive Owen, left, and Mila Kunis in a scene from Blood Ties. Roadside Attractions / AP Photo
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For Blood Ties, Guillaume Canet gathered together a cast both familiar and not – including his own real-life partner, Marion Cotillard. The French actress, who won an Oscar for 2007’s La Vie en Rose, had worked with Canet on his 2010 film Little White Lies, but was focusing on James Gray’s The Immigrant in the run-up.

“I would work at night and he would work during the day, and we would say ‘hello’ in the morning. So we wouldn’t share a lot. It was like shift hours,” Cotillard recalls.

While in Gray’s film she plays a Polish immigrant, here Cotillard and Canet decided her character Monica – the prostitute ex-wife to the film’s central character Chris (Clive Owen) – would be Italian. “It took me as long to learn four sentences in Italian than 20 pages in Polish. I don’t know why – I just can’t manage Italian. It was a really stressful experience,” says Cotillard.

In truth, her work is as impeccable as ever. “I’m happy to know it was good,” she says. “I don’t think I want to know if it’s not, because I cannot change it.”

Intriguingly, for a remake of a French film set in 1974 New York, Canet took on an international cast – from Cotillard’s Rust and Bone co-star, the Belgium-born Matthias Schoenaerts, to the Hollywood star Zoe Saldana, who plays an abused woman, caught in a masculine world of crime and cops.

“Guillaume was like, ‘I really want you to play Vanessa,’ and he told me the whole background of him doing the movie first in France and then wanting to adapt it to New York culture in the 1970s,” says Saldana. “As a New Yorker, that really enticed me.”

Owen came on board after he received a phone call from his Children of Men director Alfonso Cuarón – a good friend of Canet – who encouraged him read the script. To prepare, he gorged on 1970s Hollywood movies, everything from Taxi Driver to The Panic in Needle Park.

“I always try, whenever I’m doing a film, to watch films that are related in some way for inspiration,” Owen says. “And it was a golden period. They’ve made some fantastic films. And these were big, mainstream popular films. They were well-crafted and well-acted, they were intelligent and they were adult.”

Of course, it helps when you have James Caan in the cast; a star of The Godfather, one of the most iconic Hollywood films ever made. Caan plays the father to Owen’s ex-con Chris and his brother Frank (Bill Crudup), a rising star of the NYPD – and it’s this increasingly tense dynamic that truly drives the film.

“There just seemed to be an awful lot to play with … from an acting point of view,” says Owen. “There’s no scene that’s ever simple and straightforward. It wasn’t about a good guy and a bad guy. It was about people that are linked through their blood and the difficulties that can bring.”

• Blood Ties is out now in UAE cinemas