Silence is Golden: ‘The Artist,’ ‘Hugo’ Win Big At Oscars

Oscar®-winning actor Jean Dujardin, winner for Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for his role in "The Artist." ©AMPAS. (Click on photo for hi-res version).


Front Row Features

HOLLYWOOD—Two films paying homage to the Golden Age of Cinema divvied up many of feature film Oscars Sunday, with the black and white silent film “The Artist,” winning five awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, and Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo,” about French film pioneer George Melies, racking up five technical awards.

Moments after taking their bows onstage, the winners spoke with reporters backstage for a chance to further discuss their wins.

Here are some of the highlights:

Three’s Company

Meryl Streep was obviously moved about receiving her third Oscar statuette Sunday, delivering a heartfelt thank you onstage to her husband of 33 years, sculptor Don Gummer, and her longtime hairstylist.

Backstage she revealed that the win for her depiction of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady”—three decades after her last walk to the Oscar podium—truly caught her by surprise.

“I was thrilled,” she said, smiling and clutching her prize. “ I thought I was so old and jaded, but they call your name,

Octavia Spencer, Oscar®-winner for Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, and Meryl Streep, Oscar®-winner for Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, attend the Governor's Ball. ©AMPAS. (Click on photo for hi-res version).

and you just go into sort of  (see) a white light.   It was like I was a kid again.  I was a kid when I won this, like, 30 years ago. Two of the (other) nominees were not even conceived. So it was great. And it was doubly wonderful because my long time collaborative colleague, Roy Helland, my hairdresser, won (an Oscar) with his colleague Mark Coulier, who is a great British prosthetics designer, but he won not for some monster makeup but for making a human being. It’s very unusual in that branch that they give it to somebody who’s just trying to transform people.  And so I was really, really proud for him.”

Dujardin Speaks, And Makes an Admission

Outside his native France, Jean Dujardin was not a household name—but that was before this awards season and the little black and white silent movie that could, “The Artist.“

After winning the Oscar for Best Actor Sunday, the burning question backstage was would he now become a Hollywood movie star.

Dujardin responded in heavily accented English, “I’m not an American actor, I’m a French actor. I will continue (acting) in France, but it’s possible.” Then, through a translator, he continued, “If I could make another silent movie in America, I’d like to. I will always be a French actor in America so I’ll look for those roles. There are a few ideas I’d like to develop.”

A reporter then asked him whether he had accidentally dropped the f-bomb in French during his acceptance speech, and he coyly admitted he did.

“Ah yes, I did. I’m sorry,” he said, with a smile.

 The Jack-of-All-Trades

Still emotional from her Actress in a Supporting Role win for her depiction as a maid who finds the courage to speak out in the segregated south in “The Help,” Octavia Spencer told journalists she is looking forward to doing more than acting in the future.

“I want to be a producer,” she said. “I want to be an activist. I want to be proactive in bringing about work for men, women, boys, girls, everybody who is good at what they do and deserve a shot at it.  So I think my role, I want to have a presence both behind the scenes and in front of the camera. I can’t say on one particular thing, so I’ll just name them all.  I’ll be the jack of all trades and hopefully be decent at one of them.”

As for portraying an African-American at the dawn of the Civil Rights era, she modestly said, “ I’m a benefactor of all of the riches that the real life Minnys, Aibileens, Constantines, Skeeters, Celias, that they basically repeated,” referring to some of the characters in the film. “I’m very humble because I get to stand here and accept this award and I haven’t really done anything.”

He’s Only Just Begun

At 82, Christopher Plummer became the oldest actor ever to earn an Academy Award Sunday night for his supporting role in “Beginners,” in which he played a longtime closeted gay man who comes out in his ‘70s. But the Canadian native revealed backstage he isn’t about to ride off into the sunset now with his first Oscar win.

“It is sort of a renewal, it’s not a beginning exactly,” she said of the honor. “But it has recharged me and I hope I can do it for another 10 years at least.  I’m going to drop dead wherever I am, on stage or on the set. We don’t retire in our profession, thank God.”

 The Man Behind “The Artist”

For the category Best Motion Picture of the Year, the Oscar® goes to "The Artist" produced by Thomas Langmann. Thomas Langmann poses backstage with Oscar®-winning director Michel Hazanavicius, winner for Achievement in Directing for work done on "The Artist" ©AMPAS.

Thomas Langmann said the key to getting the black and white silent film made was being tenacious and the struggle was worth it.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” said the French producer, the son of a filmmaker. “When we started this movie, all the meetings that we had were very short. No one wanted to help us making a silent black and white movie. But I was convinced that (director) Michel Hazanavicius was a very gifted director, and I thought that if we were giving him the money that he needed, if we could come and shoot in LA and with an American cast, American crew I was hoping that the movie. I knew because it was silent  (and) black and white, it would be different, original. All the weaknesses that were at the beginning became strengths. So, now, of course with the award season and this amazing evening here at the Oscars, it’s thrilling, it’s amazing. I’ll never forget this evening.”

“Hugo:” Getting Technical

“Hugo’s” art director Dante Ferretti had more than one reason to celebrate his big win Sunday night.

“Today is my birthday,” he said with a big grin, while clutching his Oscar.

His colleague, Francesca Lo Schiavo, who won an Oscar for set decoration, explained her passion for her work after winning her statuette.

“I decided many years ago and I was in Italy, and I was so deeply interested about the decoration and I work in interior design studios, and then, at the same time I love so much movies,” she recalled.  “So when I understood that it was possible to do both, I mean, the decoration, movies, so that was the start for of my job.”

The Streep Look

For J. Roy Helland, who won an Oscar for styling Streep’s hair in “The Iron Lady,” it was a joy to win the same night she did, after working with the actress for 37 years.

“It’s a great honor and a great joy and we have a really good time,” he said. “That’s why we like to do it still.”

The drama’s makeup artist Mark Coulier, who also won an Oscar, said his job not only was to make Streep look like Thatcher, but also to give her “freedom to move and express and act.”

Culture Can Bridge the Gap

“A Separation” became the first film from Iran to win an Academy Award, and no one was happier Sunday than the film’s writer-director Asghar Farhadi.

Backstage, he addressed the subject of the film’s significance in a global context.

“Cultural activities are the most important thing we have to stick to in Iran,” he said, adding, “What matters is that even though this film was a local film, it could still relate to all people around the world because it is about human relations.  What happens in this film is not specific to a region or geography, and perhaps this is the reason why this film is understandable by people throughout the world like Australia, America (or the) Middle East.”

The F-bomb, And Making a Difference

T.J. Martin apologized for his perhaps overenthusiastic response to winning an Oscar, alongside co-producers Dan Lindsay and Rich Middlemas, for their feature-length documentary “Undefeated.”

“It came from the heart,” he explained.

Though the film is about an underdog inner-city Memphis high school football team and its inspiring white coach, its producers said the impetus to make the film was socioeconomic not race.

“When we first discovered the community of North Memphis, that’s when we felt the absolute need to tell the story because I think between the three of us we’ve done a fair amount of traveling within the U.S., and I don’t think we’ve ever seen poverty on that level,” recalled Martin. “Once we got there and recognized that race and class was not an issue for both the volunteer coaches and the players, they didn’t see each other, the players didn’t see Coach Bill as their white coach and Coach Bill did not see his players as his, you know, African American players. So, for us, it was not our duty to bring in that element of it, if it wasn’t a reality for their day to day.”

Working with a Real World Chameleon

“Rango” director Gore Verbinski explained what it was like receiving an Oscar for his animated feature “Rango,” featuring the voice of Johnny Depp as a lizard.

“Every actor has a different process,” he said. “He just is really is brave in kind of pursuing the sort of awkward moment in trying to find something that’s not really rehearsed, or to try to find a way to approach something. If the lines are there one way, he’ll always come at it a different way. So I just think we have something in common in that sort of pursuit of trying to find   how to make something work until it’s genuinely a little off.”

 Living Up to a Legend

Bret McKenzie, who wrote the music for “The Muppet Movie,” was pleased to take home the Oscar for his “Man or a Muppet,” revealing he was inspired by hours of viewing Jim Henson’s Muppets when he was a child.

“In the ‘80s, when I was at home a lot watching TV, my dad one day brought home a video recorder, and that was the latest thing,” the native New Zealander recalled. “No one else (I knew) had one. It was pretty exciting, but he only had two videocassettes, and one was (Henson’s puppets in) “The Dark Crystal.” So my brother and I watched that movie at least twice a week for about five years. Infinitely, Jim Henson influenced me. The other thing I love about the guy is he made children’s films that didn’t patronize the minds of children.’

 It’s All Greek to Me

Alexander Payne, who is of Greek descent, translated a bit of his onstage speech that recognized his mother in picking of an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for “The Descendants.” He also spoke of getting acclimated to Hawaii, where he shot his film, starring George Clooney. Standing alongside his co-writers Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, he revealed what he said to his mother, shooting in Hawaii and using local music.

“Essentially (I said) ‘I love you very much’ in Greek,” he said. “As for adapting Hawaiian culture and folding it into the film and using the music, I am proud of the fact that I was able to spend a number of months in Hawaii before shooting, using Kaui Hart Hemmings, the novelist, as a guide, opening the initial doors for me to get it right because they could be quite specific and judgmental out there in Hawaii in kind of nailing what they do.  And the use of music… I thought it would be inelegant not to try to score the film with 100 percent Hawaiian music, given the plethora of music out there, which never extends beyond the isles.”

 A First For Pakistan

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy became the first-ever director from Pakistan to win an Oscar. She won the award for her documentary short, “Saving Face.”

Of her accomplishment, she said, “People like myself need to go back and create change in Pakistan. I hope this will be an impetus to revive the (moviemaking) industry in Pakistan.”

Giving Credit Where It’s Due

Michel Hazanavicius explained why he singled out an American filmmaker during his Oscar acceptance speech for his best director Oscar for “The Artist.”

“I thanked Billy Wilder three times, because I had to make it short. But I could thank him a thousand times, because I think he is the perfect director. This is the perfect example and he’s the soul of Hollywood, and most of all, I wanted to thank him. I love him.”

He also revealed that for his next project he is remaking another Hollywood movie, “The Search,” a black and white melodrama, which originally starred Montgomery Clift. No word yet on who will play Clift’s role, though his wife and “Artist” leading lady Berenice Bejo will be in the cast.