The George Clooney of France

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Reviewed on 01/16/2012 | No Reviews

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French actor Jean Dujardin got a Golden Globe

A couple of weeks ago you might have asked: Who the hell is Jean Dujardin? Now you have no excuse not to know him. In a flash, he’s become a star. “I’m a little Gene Kelly”, said the French actor just before he danced away with another award, the Golden Globe Award for his turn as silent movie star George Valentin in the French film “The Artist”.

Photo: © AFP, Kevin Winters

"You'll never do movies": the charisma machine Jean Dujardin Photo: Robyn Beck, AFP

“The Artist” is a witty and moving homage to the silent movie era, a “love letter to Hollywood”, as Jean Dujardin put it, “a visual, emotional experience”.

Shooting a silent movie in 2011 sounded like a crazy idea. But “The Artist” turned out to be a bit like Harry Potter: refused by so many and finally crowned with success. The real winner of Michel Hazanavicius’ film though is Jean Dujardin. The 39 year-old French actor is up to his fifth award for his role, he got 15 nominations and there’s a good chance he’ll even get an Oscar.

A charisma machine

The New York Times called him „the handsome elastic-faced French star“, “an effortless, witty charisma machine”, and even better: “the George Clooney of France”. And right, he’s as charming and as good looking as Georges Clooney, but with a nice French touch. That’s why he said ‘Ollywood in his acceptance speech.

On Jimmy Fallons’ “Late Show” last week, he gave a sample of his talents in imitating Robert De Niro without any words and tapping like Gene Kelly. Dujardin learned to tap in only five months. At the beginning, he said, it was really boring. “After five weeks it just got thrilling.” Doing a silent movie was a “liberating, instinctive experience”, he said on another occasion.

Fighting for his dreams

But who was Jean Dujardin before becoming a worldwide star? A guy who never actually aspired to stardom. After high school, he worked for his parents’ construction company. And while serving his mandatory military service, he wrote his first one-man show and began performing it in the basements of Parisians bars and cabarets. His first break on was “Un Gars, une Fille”, a popular television sitcom in France – he later married his partner of the show, the actor Alexandra Lamy.

“When I was starting out, they said to me, ‘You’ll never do movies. Your face is too expressive. Too big,’” Dujardin said in his acceptance speech. “It’s not my fault. My eyebrows are independent. No seriously, I have always followed my instincts and … fought for my dreams.”

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