If they are anything like most Oscar winners, the team behind The Artist will have spent the first day of the rest of their lives conforming to the grandest, and most lucrative, of Hollywood traditions.
Having woken-up, pinched themselves, and checked that, oui, that really was a gold statue on their bedside table, France’s newly-minted movie stars are likely to have devoted their waking hours to pondering two pressing questions. How to shift that throbbing hangover? And which, of the myriad career choices suddenly on their horizon should they pursue next?
The first will not have been easily answered. Having sought refreshment at the Governor’s Ball, the team who won five of yesterday’s Academy Awards - including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor - adjourned to a packed party hosted by their film’s distributor, Harvey Weinstein, at the Mondrian Hotel in Hollywood. Then they swept through Vanity Fair’s bash, before continuing to the Chateau Marmont Hotel, where at around 4am several boisterous members of their entourage leapt into the swimming pool, fully clothed. Finally, around sunrise, they pitched-up at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, for a champagne breakfast.
The second post-Oscar question requires even more careful consideration. Like any winners of the biggest accolade in show-business, The Artist’s leading man Jean Dujardin, director Michel Hazanavicius, and producer Thomas Langmann will for the time being be inundated with potential job offers. But, as any Hollywood agent will tell you, an overabundance of choice doesn’t always make for easy decisions.
Unlike Meryl Streep, whose Best Actress award completes a career hat-trick of Oscars, the equipe behind The Artist are relatively new arrivals on the A-list. Until their little $15m black-and-white silent movie debuted at Cannes in May, where Dujardin won Best Actor, they were relatively unknown outside their native France. Much therefore hangs on their next move.
On a purely pragmatic level, history suggests that all three can, if they so desire, leverage The Artist’s success into financial security. The film has already made $76 million worldwide and is now being widened into more than 2,000 cinemas in the US, with a view to further capitalising on Best Picture status. As well as “back end” earnings from that pot – which must also be dipped into by the voracious Mr Weinstein – they are entitled to use their modish status to secure significant paydays.
Last year’s Best Actress, Natalie Portman, for example, followed-up her award-winning role in the low-budget indy title Black Swan by signing onto a project that couldn't have been more different: the expensive Studio blockbuster, Thor. But taking a fat cheque can be a dangerous game, as such forgotten past Oscar winners as Adrien Brody may attest.
For now, The Artist’s award-winning stars insist that they have no ambition to sell out to the Hollywood machine. Speaking backstage, immediately after being named Best Actor, Dujardin declared that regardless of whether he now takes up residence in Beverly Hills, he intends to remain true to his roots. “I’m not an American actor, I’m French,” he said. “If I could make another silent movie in America, I would. But I’ll always be a French actor in America. Nonetheless, there are a few ideas I would like to develop.”
Hazanavicius, for his part, suggested that he and Langmann will attempt to repeat their recent success by producing a modern remake of Fred Zinnemann’s 1948 film The Search, which starred Montgomery Clift and is set in post-War Berlin.
“It will be a modern movie set today and [his wife and The Artist’s female lead] Bérénice Bejo will be in it.” Hazanavicius revealed, hinting that the film will be made in Europe. “I hope to make a movie here [in Hollywood] again. But I also have a wonderful producer who is French, and I want to work with him again; if you have a wonderful producer you stick with that person.”
There is, of course, one star of The Artist for whom Sunday represented an end, rather than a beginning. Uggie, the Jack Russell who has attracted as many admirers as his human co-stars, is now to be retired, at the age of nine. Asked, on the post-Oscar party circuit, where his terrier had gone Dujardin offered a Gallic shrug: “The old man went to bed already.”
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