He recently beat all-time favourites — George Clooney (The Descendents) and Brad Pitt (Moneyball) — at the BAFTAs. And now everyone’s talking about a Best Actor Oscar for French actor Jean Dujardin, for his act in The Artist.
But the world’s most famous silent-film star today is unconcerned with the labels that people want to put on him. “I’m pretty tough on myself, but I’m proud of my work in The Artist. The tap dance was the biggest challenge, and the retake and the premiere were the toughest scenes,” he says.
In Michel Hazanavicius’s black-and-white silent film, Jean plays the part of the charismatic George Valentin, the matinee idol of Hollywood’s silent era, who thinks he’s too big for the new fad called ‘Talkies.’ “But I’m not like George, I have moments of anguish and doubt. I can go from being full of joy to being very silent,” says the actor.
While he knew of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton before filming The Artist, it was silent movies like Sunrise (1927) and The Crowd (1928) that he calls “the real discovery.” “Valentin is modelled on Douglas Fairbanks (American actor known for silent films like Robin Hood, The Mask Of Zorro). He was happy in his own skin and content to make the same pantomime movies again and again. It was good to know that there was another acting style that helped me build a bridge with modern audiences,” says Jean.
Ever since he received his first Best Actor Award at Cannes last May, life has changed for Jean, who began learning English in October. So is he Hollywood bound now? “I think the French would be really angry if I left,” he laughs, adding, “Seriously, it would have to be the role for me, along with the story and the director for that to happen. It’s all about human relationships, not a Hollywood machine.
I want to work with a director who becomes my brother and father for two months, because I will be giving myself to him.”
Next up for Jean is a romantic thriller, Mobius, set in the world of finance. He plays the role of a spy opposite Cecile de France. Then, the remake of Claude Berri’s rom-com, One Wild Moment (Un moment D'égarement), in which actor Vincent Cassel and he are best friends who fall out after one of them attracts the romantic attention of the other’s daughter.
And there’s Les Infidèles: “Infidelity has not been explored deeply in films, which is why I wanted to go all the way with Les Infidèles,” says Jean, who hopes that The Artist, which opened in the country last Friday, will work well here too. “Hopefully, someday I will visit India.”
And the Oscar goes to... HT Café!
Yup, we’ve always wanted to know what the fuss is about. The original golden statuette, the Academy Award, named after a librarian’s uncle Oscar, walked in to our office, so we could take a closer look. To be honest, nothing could’ve met our expectations. This didn’t either.
It’s gold plated, weighs 3.5 kilos, and looks much smaller than you think. The one that came to meet us was India’s first Oscar, which Bhanu Athaiya picked up, along with John Mollo, for her costume work on Gandhi (1982).
There are five other Oscars with an Indian citizenship, distributed among the three metros: three in Mumbai (besides Athaiya’s, Gulzar’s and Resul Pookutty’s), one each in Kolkata and Chennai (Satyajit Ray’s and AR Rahman’s).
As per 83-year-old Athaiya’s decision, the one in the picture is on its way back to the Academy in Los Angeles for safekeeping. Of course a whole lot of new ones will be given out tomorrow. The show airs live at 6 am on Star Movies. Needless to add, we’ll be up to catch the Oscars, only happier for having met the real one!