As Harvey Weinstein crawls on hands and knees up the Croisette, searching desperately for the next film to equal the success of last year’s golden child, “The Artist,” it can be hard to recall just how unique and singular the film seemed when first shown at Cannes, before its subsequent release and obnoxious awards season buzz. The plain fact is, director Michel Hazanavicius & Co. made a tremendous film, and today news has sprung up that the cast and crew will continue to pursue interesting projects, ones that find them in a distinctly different environment than before.
Jean Dujardin’s dazzling smile and comic chops largely dominated “Artist” discussion, but really it was actress Berenice Bejo who truly grounded the film with an emotional center, oftentimes playing the straight performer but owning some fine comic moments herself. She then broke men’s hearts everywhere with news that she was married to Hazanavicius, but unlike, say, Rebecca Pidgeon in David Mamet’s films, there’s never any moment in “The Artist” where the role shouldn’t have been hers. Bejo and Hazavanicius are planning to work together again, on a previously-announced war drama inspired by Fred Zinnemann’s “The Search” (available on Warner Archives), which starred Montgomery Clift as a soldier seeking safety in post-WWII Berlin, and the actress spoke to Baz Bamigboye at Cannes, where she revealed a few new details on the project.
It turns out that Hazavanicius’ as-yet-untitled version, which is set in contemporary Chechnya, follows the same basic plot as Zinnemann’s film. “It’s about a lost child, a boy who can’t find his family, and he’s an emblem of the horrors of war.” But despite earlier assumptions that she’d be playing the lost boy’s mother, it turns out Bejo’s actually taking the lead role, previously a male soldier, but now a worker for a Red Cross-style NGO. “I am playing the part Montgomery Clift played in Zinnemann’s film. That part was a man; now it’s a woman, and I am playing her.”
Zinnemann’s film was a bleak affair somewhat weakened by a contrived plot, so Hazanavicius has a chance to create something unique while also tackling a project wildly different from his past work. At the moment, Hazanavicius is still revising the script, but the director hopes to start production in Georgia by year’s end.
Also spreading in Cannes is news that Tim Roth, currently serving on the Un Certain Regard jury and opening Critic’s Week in “Broken“, will join Bejo’s Oscar-winning ‘Artist’ co-star Jean Dujardin and actress Cecile de France in another thriller, “Mobius,” directed by Eric Rochant (“Love Without Pity”). Revolving around the high-stakes financial world, Roth will play a Russian oligarch facing allegations of money laundering through his own bank. No word yet on Dujardin or de France’s roles in the film, but as the project nears its ambitious shooting schedule soon in Belgium, Luxembourg, Ukraine, Russia, and Monaco, expect some more casting news to follow. As for Bejo & Dujardin’s “The Artist” co-star Uggie, rumors that he’s currently in negotiations to play the villain in “Thor 2” are, so far, entirely made up by us. [Daily Mail/Variety]