Bérénice Bejo is not in any way blasé about the acclaim showered on her and The Artist. Indeed, she remains humbled and amazed at the improbable attention the black-and-white silent film about a 1930s Hollywood romance from French director Michel Hazanavicius has received. When the New York Film Critics Circle dubbed The Artist the best movie of 2011, Bejo was already back in France shooting a new film, Populaire. Exhausted by her shooting schedule and a round of promotion for The Artist, she was less jump-up-and-down excited than her significant other Hazanavicius, the movie’s writer and director. “I’m like, oh great, oh great — I’m going to bed,” Bejo recalls. Now the 35-year-old daughter of Argentine filmmaker Miguel Bejo finds herself nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, Hazanavicius for Best Director and Original Screenplay, and the movie for Best Picture and six others. Bejo is not thinking about it… but she is thinking about it. With a little prompting she also talked with AwardsLine contributor Diane Haithman about portraying spunky young American starlet Peppy Miller in The Artist.
AWARDSLINE: Peppy is a big role. Was there a reason you were submitted for Oscar consideration for supporting actress?
BEJO: Harvey [Weinstein] said best actress is too complicated. Especially this year, with Meryl Streep and Glenn Close, Viola Davis for The Help, Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe.
AWARDSLINE: You had a role in Hazanavicius’ 2006 comedy OSS 117-Cairo, Nest Of Spies, part of his series of spy film parodies. But you weren’t a couple back then. What is it like to be cast and directed by … shall I say your husband, is that correct?
BEJO: Yeah. We are not married, but he is the one, he is my one. I admired him before I fell in love with him, so I couldn’t wait as an actress to be on set with him again. We are not complicated people; there were no problems or hysterics and whatever. And to live through all that’s going on now together, it’s very special.
AWARDSLINE: Does all the Oscar attention put too much pressure on this film, raising expectations higher than the movie’s aspirations?
BEJO: This kind of movie, it’s, how do you say it — it’s not made to be something else. It’s just a beautiful love story, set in the ’30s, told with images. For me, I grew up watching so many movies from the Hollywood Golden Age, and I really wanted to be an actress because of that. So when Michel started writing this movie, and he said it was going to be set in the ’30s and it going to be in Hollywood, for me it was like, “Oh my God, I am going to be one of them.”
AWARDSLINE: In the movie, Peppy gets her big break in Hollywood. What was your big break?
BEJO: It was in France. My first big movie [in 2000] was about a young girl who wanted to become an actress, actually. It was called Meilleur Espoir Feminine, in English it’s Most Promising Young Actress. This young girl lives in a small village in France with her dad, a hairdresser, and she wants to become an actress. It is the interaction of these two worlds.
AWARDSLINE: Your father wasn’t a hairdresser, he was a filmmaker. Did your parents encourage you to go into the business?
BEJO: They were not parents who took me to auditions when I was 5 years old and 10 years old. I started doing auditions when I was 17 or 18 and started doing some work around that time. I was doing my study in the same time. My parents were not pushy or anything like that. I think my mom was still expecting me to be an astronaut, but now she is very happy that I’m not doing that.
AWARDSLINE: What kind of roles do you get offered?
BEJO: A little bit of everything, but I guess I’m the perfect young lead actress. I’m not Chloe Sevigny — I’m not really a character actress. Some actors have “character” faces.
AWARDSLINE: You and the cast share the acclaim with dog star Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier. But I’ve heard your husband does not like dogs.
BEJO: He’s not a big fan of dogs. When we met, I arrived with a dog, and he arrived with his two girls. So I said, “Well, we have to take each other the way we are.” He made fun of me. He said “At least if your dog is bothering me, I can put him in a room and close the door; you can’t do that with my daughters.” I said, “That’s fair.”
(Photo of Bejo and Hazanavicius: Getty Images)