8 insiders about ‘The Artist’

‘The Artist’ may have clocked in $12 million at the French box office, bagged 5 Oscars and even won the best actor award at Cannes (Jean Dujardin) but what is more laudable is the fact that it is the first silent movie to be nominated and to win at the Academy Awards since ‘Wings’ in 1927.


Being a silent film, actress Berenice Bejo had to work without dialogues for the first time but what she found exciting and challenging was trying to imitate an American actress who was very unlike her. She says, “The challenge was to try and focus on the body language, but the rest of it was finding a way of being an American actress. I think of American actors -- they take up a lot of space, they talk really loud, they talk with their hands. So I had to find that, since being a French actor, everything is more petite.”


Since ‘The Artist’ showcases the decline of the lead character (George Valentin) played by Jean Durjardin in the film, it was a challenge for director Michel Hazanavicius to create a look for him. But he was quick to take cue from the 1927 movie ‘Sunrise’ and dressed him up in suits which were too big for him, making him a little less perfect than he was in the first act.


To ensure the music of the film was consistent with the silent movie era, the period the film is set in, Oscar-winner director Michel Hazanavicius took the lead cast to watch movies at the silent movie theatre in Fairfax. This obviously inspired him to pick an appropriate soundtrack and had songs from artists like George Gershwin, Cole Porter etc.


‘The Artist’ was first shot in colour film stock because the black and white film available today is too sharp for the premise of the film and lacked enough grain. The idea was to achieve a certain grey and unusual filters were used to diffuse the whites and mute the blacks.


Actress Berenice Bejo read actress Gloria Swanson's biography while researching her role. “To me, she represents the American way of life,” she explained, when asked about who her character in the film was modelled on.


John Goodman who plays a cigar-smoking, head of the studio in the film was based on the legendary Cecil B. DeMille.


Jean Durjardin admits that his character of George Valentin was based on actor Douglas Fairbanks, who was the most popular actor in the 1920s and his career faded as the talkies arrived, pretty much like Durjardin’s characters’ does in the film ‘The Artist’.