In the film, due out later this year, Cotillard plays Sonya, a Polish immigrant who is forced to trade sexual favors for food and water to sustain her sick sister during their boat ride to America. Upon her arrival Stateside, Sonya finds herself without money or prospects and gets entangled with an underhanded fellow named Bruno Weis (Phoenix), who leads her into a life of prostitution.
The film was written and directed by James Gray and also features Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner.
Cotillard has frequently starred in period pieces, portraying a 1920s Parisian woman in Woody Allen's "Midnight In Paris," a Prohibition-era gun moll in "Public Enemies" and, in a performance that won her the Academy Award for Best Actress, the iconic French singer Edith Piaf in "La vie en rose." This year, she'll play a supporting role in "The Dark Knight Rises" and star in the French film "De rouille et d'os."
"Low Life," if that's what it ends up being called, will mark a comeback of sorts for Phoenix; he hasn't appeared in a feature film since 2008 and was last seen onscreen in "I'm Still Here," a documentary about his stunt foray into rapping.