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Dujardin: ‘Artist’ gives voice to the talents of French vet

10 Actors to Watch 2011: Jean Dujardin

It’s amazing what winning the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival can do for one’s career.

Since taking home that honor in May for his performance in “The Artist,” French actor Jean Dujardin has become a well-known commodity across the Pond. With awards talk heating up, many expect his career to take a similar path as fellow Gallic thesp Marion Cotillard’s after she played Edith Piaf in “La Vie en rose.”

Weinstein Co. releases “The Artist” on Nov. 23.

One of Gaul’s rare bankable talents of his generation, the 39-year-old says he “chooses roles very carefully,” preferring to limit himself to one or two films per year to stay focused on “singular films with bold concepts.” Examples include Bertrand Blier’s black comedy “The Clink of Ice,” about a writer who faces the incarnation of his cancer, or “classic stories with strong scripts,” such as Nicole Garcia’s sentimental thriller, “A View of Love.”

A versatile showman who can act, dance, sing and even clog, Dujardin wasn’t born into a family of actors as is often the case in France.

Thesp worked his way up from Paris’ comedy clubs and got his first TV gig with “A Guy, a Girl,” a sitcom that became a ratings success. Dujardin’s career took off in 2004 playing the 30-year-old clueless surfer bum Brice in James Huth’s burlesque comedy “Brice de Nice.”

With his smoldering eyes, wry smile and arched eyebrows, Dujardin has a charm that served him well when he broke his funnyman image to play silent movie star George Valentin with bravado in director Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist,” a black and white homage to 1920s Hollywood.

It’s Dujardin’s third collaboration with Hazanavicius, who cast him as a Sean Connery look-alike in his spy spoof franchise “OSS 117, Cairo: Nest of Spies” and its sequel “OSS 177: Lost in Rio.” Both were local B.O. hits, and earned Dujardin a Cesar nom.

“With Michel (Hazanavicius) we share the same vision of cinema that’s somewhat driven by childhood nostalgia and a desire to create a real spectacle. The happiness we feel making a film is as important as the film itself,” he says.

Lucky break: “Brice, the character I created for my live comedy shows, was born at the same time as the Internet in the late 1990s. By the time the film came out in 2004, ‘Brice de Nice’ already had tons of teenage fans and that’s how it became a global success.”
Favorite film: “Love Is a Funny Thing,” directed by Claude Lelouch
Career I’d like to emulate: “Vittorio Gassman is an inspiration because he was extremely talented, elegant and eclectic. He was able to play dramatic roles as well as comedy. I loved him in ‘The Easy Life’ and ‘Scent of a Woman.’?”

10 ACTORS TO WATCH 2011:
Benedict Cumberbatch | Jean Dujardin | Luke Evans | Josh Hutcherson | Felicity Jones | Taylor Kitsch | Brit Marling | Elizabeth Olsen | Octavia Spencer | Shailene Woodley

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