When dashing Jean Dujardin made his acceptance speech as the first ever French actor to win the Oscar for Best Actor on Monday night, it was merely the pinnacle of an evening that saw The Artist take home five Academy Awards, after earlier success at the Golden Globes and elsewhere.
The silent, black-and-white film in which he starred has been a global hit, and despite expectations that modern audiences wouldn’t buy into the concept, it became the first silent film to win the Best Picture award since 1929.
The man at the centre of the action, and staring rakishly off the poster that promoted the movie around the world, is Jean Dujardin, a French comedian and actor who is much more well known here in Paris than he was elsewhere in the world.
But if The Artist‘s Oscar glory represented the pinnacle of Dujardin’s success on the world stage, the events have been viewed rather differently here in Paris. Everybody is delighted to see French talent making it big, of course, but some of Dujardin’s previous work is very, very different.
He first came to public attention in the late 90s producing comic sketches on TV, and despite since appearing in a string of successful movies over the past decade, he is mostly fondly remembered in France for two characters that grew out out of his TV franchise.
Wannabe surfers and secret agent spoofs
The eponymous hero of Brice de Nice is a strung-out wannabe surfer who parties all night long in Nice … famous for not actually having any surfable waves. Another Dujardin character who became a franchise in his own right is Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, aka secret agent OSS 17, in a series of parodies that send up classic spy movies.
Dujardin’s next project, currently on show here in Paris is a new film about unfaithful husbands called Les Infidèles. Dujardin is once again the main drawer on the posters, but some of them were pulled by the French authorities for being too risky. Rumour has it that they were also worried that tarnishing Dujardin’s image might spoil his Oscar chances: the caption on the poster below cheekily reads ‘Sorry, I’m going into another meeting’ …