She’s been acting since she was 17, and suddenly, at 35, she finds herself on every red carpet, brushing shoulders with the best in the world at prestigious award functions. Coming up are the Oscars on February 26, and along with Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastian (The Help), Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaid) and Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs), Bérénice Bejo is one of the leading contenders for Best Actress In A Supporting Role for her performance as Peppy Miller in The Artist.
Quiz her on her chances, and sounding completely unruffled the actor says, “It’s not about winning or losing. Yes, I really want to win, but even if someone else does, I will feel that a part of me has won since we are all a part of this. But if I do go on stage, I’d thank my parents, agent, co-stars, everyone close to me and most of all, my husband Michel.
Michel Hazanavicius, the film’s director and Bérénice’s husband, admitted that he wrote the part for her. “Yes, he always had Jean (Durjardin) and me in mind,” she agrees, adding, “I will always remember The Artist as a gift for me from Michel.”
What kind of preparations went into playing a silent movie actor from the 1920s? “Well, there was a lot of research. I never thought I was in 2011 and didn’t have my cell phone,” she laughs, adding that there were a lot of American actors she had watched as a girl whom she recalled. “But I connected particularly with Joan Crawford, John Barrymore and Marlene Dietrich. I thought their energy and body language was something Peppy should have. But the biggest challenge was the tap dancing. We trained for nearly five months.”
And how much has life changed since the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 and went on to bag nominations and awards galore? Bérénice laughs and says, “Oh my whole life has changed. There are so many scripts, so many auditions. Right now I’m the most famous silent actor in the world, and I want to keep that for me. I hope there’s not going to be any other silent movie.”