'Artist' eyes big post-Oscar boost

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'Artist' eyes big post-Oscar boost

Presenter Tom Cruise poses for photographers with producer Thomas Langmann, whose film "The Artist" won the best picture Oscar, during the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, February 26, 2012. REUTERS/ Mike Blake

LOS ANGELES -- To the victor goes the spoils. If best picture Oscar winner The Artist captures even a bit of the bottled lightning that energized The King's Speech a year ago, it will be a bonanza for the modest French film.

After winning four Oscars out of its 12 nominations, The King's Speech pushed its boxoffice tally to a robust $414.2 million worldwide, much of that directly related to the Oscar buzz. Not bad for a $15 million production about a British king with a speech impediment.

The Artist also cost $15 million to make, which is low by Hollywood standards even though director Michel Hazanavicius shot it entirely in the Los Angeles area using both French and American crew members. Its boxoffice now stands at $76.5 million worldwide, which is already impressive for a black-and-white silent film set in Hollywood in the 1920s. But the Oscar triumph could push The Artist past the $100 million mark. It won five Oscars out of its 10 nominations.

"It's been an amazing journey," The Artist producer Thomas Langmann said backstage while clutching his best picture Oscar.

- LOVE IS IN THE AIR: Oscar winners are infamous for forgetting loved ones during their giddy moments on-stage. But best director winner Hazanavicius was focused by the time The Artist won as best picture, giving him his second time to talk when the entire Artist entourage ran up to the podium. Hazanavicius turned to his leading lady and wife, actress Berenice Bejo, and brought her to tears, saying: "You inspired the movie and you're the soul of the movie and the positive feeling of the movie. Thank you for being this in the movie and in my life."

Backstage, Hazanavicius guaranteed that Bejo would co-star in his next movie. It will be a modern re-make of a 1947 Hollywood film, Fred Zinnemann's The Search, starring Montgomery Clift. "It's a melodrama with a political background," Hazanavicius said. And, yes, people will talk on-screen. The screenplay for Zinnemann's version won an Oscar for its screenplay.

- LURE OF HOLLYWOOD?: Hazanavicius may one day shoot an American movie in Hollywood. But, he cautioned, "it's not the next step." Even his Hollywood re-make will be a European production (the original was set in Berlin after the Second World War). But Hazanavius is full of praise for America. "There's some beautiful actors, beautiful scriptwriters and, yes, I hope I will make a movie here once. It won't be the next one."

- LOTS MORE LOVE: Canadian stage and screen legend Christopher Plummer, who set an age record at 82 by winning as best supporting actor for Beginners, went on-stage to give his third wife Elaine Regina Taylor all the credit for rescuing him and making his later career and his first Oscar even possible. Backstage, he was asked what that meant: "What do you think it means?" he joked. "I thought it was abundantly clear. Of course, I'm a naughty boy. I've been bad all my life. And she always puts me in line. I think it's great what she's done. It's extraordinary." They have been married since 1970 and live in a 100-year-old converted farm house in Connecticut that Plummer says is the closest thing he can find in America to the wilds of Muskoka in Ontario.

- BLACK AND WHITE IN COLOUR: The Artist was actually filmed in colour, which was then processed into the gorgeous black-and-white images on screen. Langmann was asked whether he would ever approve a colour version the public could see:

"No," he said flatly. "Sorry, but ..."

- JADED? NOT MERYL: You might think that, after 17 Oscar nominations and now three Oscar wins, Meryl Streep might get blase about the Academy Awards. "I was thrilled!" the 62-year-old living legend said backstage. "I thought I was so old and jaded, but they call your name and you just go into sort of -- I don't know -- a white light. It was like I was a kid again. I mean, I was a kid when I won this like 30 years ago." It was actually 31 years ago when she took best supporting actress for Kramer vs. Kramer. And, as Streep herself noted with a droll quip, two of the four women she bested this year were not even born then. Michelle Williams was born seven months later and Rooney Mara came along five years later.

Meanwhile, instead of worrying about what she calls "Streep fatigue" and winning more Oscars, Streep says she will continue to agitate for a U.S. national history museum devoted to the contributions of women. "I think it would be really, really inspiring for people all around the world to have this fantastic centre where you can learn the stuff that hasn't been written about woman. Because, for many, many centuries, history was not interested in us. Our history is invisible."

- SALTY LANGUAGE: For all its excesses and idiocies, the Academy Awards managed to keep its awards show pretty clean -- until the past two years. A year ago, Oscar winner Melissa Leo dropped the F-bomb on stage. Then T.J. Martin, one of the three young men involved with Undefeated, the high school football film that won as best documentary feature, threw in another on-stage this year. That was followed by best actor winner Jean Dujardin's giggly French version of the word in his on-stage acceptance speech, although he was shy about admitting that backstage. When he finally did, he said: "I'm sorry!" with a sheepish grin.

Meanwhile, best supporting actress winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) saved her cheek for backstage and did not actually use the F-word. "I want to say fan-effing-tastic," she quipped about how she feels. "But we'll just leave the effing out. Fantastic!"

- TORONTO FILMFEST MAGIC: The Toronto International Film Festival is on an incredible run. Each of the five last Oscar winners for best picture launched their Oscar campaigns at the fest. Going back, in order, are: The Artist, The King's Speech, The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire and No Country for Old Men. In the case of Slumdog, Danny Boyle says the enthusiastic response of the Canadian audience directly lead to his film getting distributed. Otherwise, it was intended for a DVD and Blu-ray release only.

In the case of The Artist, Hazanavicius said at the Oscars that he finally knew The Artist might become popular when it played at the Telluride, Toronto and New York festivals. "Then I realized that people really enjoy the movie and people really love the movie. So, when people love the movie, it's not very difficult because you are not selling, you're not promoting. You just smile and say: 'Thank you!' And it's not so difficult."

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