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“We are just French filmmakers, but seen from here, things need to move. You have to find niches where you can put yourself, points of view from which you can see the world changing.”

“Rust and Bone” has been well received at Cannes, where it is one of 22 films competing for the top prize, the Palme d’Or. There has been near-universal praise for the performances of Schoenaerts _ the beefy Belgian star of Oscar-nominated cattle drama “Bullhead” _and Cotillard.

Audiard said Cotillard was the obvious choice for the role.

“She’s an actress I’d seen in `La Vie En Rose,’ and I really liked her,” he said. “I was very impressed by her masculinity, somehow, her toughness.”

Her star quality also gave the film an edge.

“It’s an interesting thing to cut off the legs of a star,” the director said. “The higher they are, the better they fall.”

Audiard’s films can take years to go from conception to completion _ “Rust and Bone” was in the works for three years and was completed just days before its Cannes premiere. He says it’s too soon to talk about his next project.

But he has an idea.

“I really would love to do a musical about drug and arms trafficking,” he said, a touch wistfully, turning to Bidegain. “We have to do it.”

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Jill Lawless can be reached at: http://Twitter.com/JillLawless