Anyone who has seen The Artist will tell you that star Jean Dujardin would have been one of the biggest stars in Hollywood eighty-five years ago. Then again, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that he hasn’t achieved that in 2011 — he was awarded a Golden Globe for his role in the silent film and is nominated for the Best Actor Oscar.
Still, Dujardin expresses to USA Today that he would be lying if he said that he knew that The Artist would be a major success or if he said that he expects his current fame to continue indefinitely.
Dujardin confesses that he was initially hesitant about starring in a silent film in the twenty-first century, especially since he would have to adapt to an expressive acting style that he hadn’t had training in. With a wink, he says, “I really regret having done it. I should have followed my instincts.”
All kidding aside, Dujardin actually seriously considered passing on the role, seeing The Artist as more of an experiment than a movie. He says, “I hesitated, and I even said no. I had some angst about it. I felt like I’d be more of an explorer than an actor because I didn’t really know, I didn’t understand it. I didn’t want to do Charlie Chaplin.”
But director Michel Hazanavicius, who not only directed Dujardin in two spy spoofs (OSS17: Cairo, Nest of Spies and OSS17: Lost in Rio) but is a close friend, told Dujardin that he wrote the role of Valentin for him. At that point Dujardin couldn’t turn the role down. He explains, “I just gave myself over to Michel. He had every detail down in the movie. He went to art school, and you can tell. You have to trust the director. I was never worried about that.”
The film required quite a commitment from Dujardin. First, he had to take several months of tap dancing lessons, and he also had to learn how to act in the silent film style — without drifting into parody. He points out, “I didn’t want to be over the top. To tell the story and not be a caricature. The rest is very instinctive. Your body does the work.”
Though after the huge success of The Artist offers from American studios are certainly on the table, Dujardin hopes to improve his English first and avoid being cast as a stereotypical French heartthrob. “I have to feel good about the movie and the director. To be a formulaic French lover in an American movie — I wouldn’t be good at that. I wouldn’t be very happy, so I’d rather be completely sincere.”
After all, like his character eventually realizes in The Artist, Dujardin understands that his current fame and level of praise isn’t guaranteed. He acknowledges this by saying, “You have to recognize that it’s fleeting. That’s how I deal with good press, bad press, success. You always have to start again. Every job is a new beginning. Every film is a new start. You’re mortal. Everything can go away. It can take you to marvelous, irrational places, but you have to be grounded. I have doubts. I always question myself. I try to remain fresh for my characters. I don’t want to take myself too seriously.”