Bringing ‘Artist’ to big screen a silent struggle

Eye on the Oscars: Best Picture - 'The Artist'

Thomas Langmann

“I had wanted to work with Michel Hazanavicius for a long time, so I proposed that he direct ‘Fantomas.’ Michel said he’d do it as a silent, black-and-white movie,” Langmann says. “I told him that since he seemed obsessed with this idea of directing a silent feature he should come up with his own story idea to make it work.”

Per Langmann, raising the $16.1 million budget was a scramble, with the distributor dropping out a week before shooting. “The CNC told us that our film was too ‘bling bling,’ and since the shoot was imminent they claimed we weren’t desperate enough for financial support. And we didn’t get any tax credits: neither from France nor from California.”

“At the beginning, we thought of shooting in an Eastern European studio, but it was too expensive and didn’t seem right for this film,” says associate producer Emmanuel Montamat. “When Michel traveled to L.A., he discovered that all the 1920s decors we had been looking for still existed and had been preserved and renovated in the 1920s style.”

“We didn’t want to show the film to distributors until it was completed,” Langmann says. “One month before Cannes, we called up Harvey Weinstein to show it to him in Paris, and what’s incredible is that he took us seriously. He jumped on a plane to come see a silent, black-and-white film with French actors, and no one else would have done that.”

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