PARIS – The French star of “The Artist” says its cast and crew knew their challenge by doing a silent, black-and-white film that broke many rules of movies today — a bet that paid off with 10 Oscar nominations.
After the Academy Award nominations were announced Tuesday — including one for him as best actor — Jean Dujardin expressed stupefaction, humility and the difficulties in keeping a cool head amid his new stardom.
“It’s a silent film, but boy are people talking about it!” said Dujardin, laughing during an interview on a white sofa at a posh hotel near Paris’ Arc de Triomphe.
“The Artist,” a love story that tells of the ups and downs faced by a Hollywood silent film star at the advent of talkies, reaped the second-most Oscar nominations after 11 for Martin Scorsese’s Paris adventure “Hugo.”
French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius was nominated for writing and directing, and his wife, Berenice Bejo, won a nod in the supporting-actress category. Producer Thomas Lansmann is the son of late filmmaker Claude Berri, ne Lansmann, who produced Best Picture nominee “Tess” in 1981.
The film pays tribute to the early days of Hollywood, and while French, it sought to transcend both nationalities and — as silent film — languages.
“There were no American actors, no French actors,” Dujardin said in French, of a cast that included James Cameron and John Goodman. “There were only silent film actors together concentrating on the same project.”
Dujardin, 39, is still working on his English — and a language coach broke in at times to help translate — so he said a silent film was about his only way into Hollywood.
“There was an excitement to do a film that’s a bit forbidden because in 2011, nobody does a silent, black-and-white film: ‘It doesn’t fit the economy, it’s not possible.'” Dujardin said. “Well yes, it is possible.”
With the nominations, could “The Artist” be for reviving silent film what “Avatar” did for 3D?
“I’m not sure there will be a trend of silent movies, but you never know,” said Hazanavicius in a separate interview.
The film shot in Los Angeles wasn’t meant to “change the face of the industry,” the director said, but because “I thought it could be a good movie, and I took my chances.”
On top of successes for the movie at the Cannes Film Festival, where Dujardin won best actor, and leading the Golden Globes with three wins this month, Hazanavicius senses his gamble has paid off.
“I really think I’m the happiest director in the world right now,” he said. “Maybe not the happiest man in the world — but the happiest director, that’s for sure.”