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It was little wonder French scribe-helmer Michel Hazanavicius had Jean Dujardin in mind when he penned the part of George Valentin in “The Artist,” a colorful and charismatic star from the silent era whose career foundered with the rise of talkies.

Dujardin, who fills nearly every frame of the black-and-white silent melodrama, possesses the athletic and expressive facial features required to portray a 1920’s Hollywood icon. But beyond any physical attributes, what made Dujardin’s perf stand out is the lightheartedness and panache he channeled toward Valentin’s character.

“I felt so proud and euphoric to shoot on location, in Hollywood, and take part in a film that’s beyond the bounds of conventionality,” he says. “The pleasure we see George Valentin is having while being under the spotlight is really mine.”

As the film took on a more dramatic tone and depicted Valentin’s downfall, Dujardin, who’s best known for playing the surfer bum in “Brice de Nice” or the goofy spy in Hazanavicius’ satires “OSS: 177,” demonstrated his full range as an actor, delivering a nuanced and genuine performance without slipping into parody or cliches.

“The near absence of dialogues challenged me to search deeper within me to convey these rich emotions,” says Dujardin. “Michel would put music on and would talk to Berenice (Bejo) and me while we were doing our scenes. … Usually on set there is a silence that can be a bit inhibiting, but when we were shooting ‘The Artist’ I didn’t feel that pressure, and it was liberating.”

To prepare for the role, Hazanavicius screened multiple silent films for Dujardin, who admittedly knew little about the genre.

“I didn’t interfere with the writing because it’s really Michel’s area,” says the Paris-born thesp. “My only query was the thin mustache because I was inspired by Douglas Fairbanks, who had such a buoyant personality.”

Dujardin confides he worked on the physical aspects, gestures and body language to get into his character.

“The techniques helped as much as the fancy suits,” says the thesp who also admits the heavy presence of extras helped him slip into Valentin’s skin. “The extras in Hollywood were so enthusiastic and dedicated that they empowered my performance. I felt transported.”

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