The Perfect Valentine: The Artist’s Bérénice Bejo and Jean Dujardin at SBIFF

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Oscar nominees of “The Artist,” from l, Director Michel Haza-navicius, and stars Bérénice Bejo and Jean Dujardin at SBIFF.

If ever there was a ménage a trois in Santa Barbara, it had to be The Artist’s leads, plus writ-er/producer/director Michel Ha-zanavicius, who appeared at the 27th annual Santa Barbara Inter-national Film Fest. Their respect for each other was obvious and they are all 2012 Oscar nomi-nees.

While some were celebrating the Super Bowl, film lovers raced to the Arlington Theatre to see Cinema Vanguard Award winners Bérénice Bejo and Jean Dujardin, the film’s sweethearts. Many think that the popular French film stars are a couple off-screen. Not so.

In fact, Bérénice is married to Michel Hazanavicius, a knockout in his own right. Not only was he in the house, Michel participated on a panel earlier in the day. Jean and Michel are BFFs. The trio spends very little time apart, es-pecially during busy awards sea-son.

Although Bérénice and Jean have a sensuous chemistry in their films, you’ll notice they never kiss. Said Michel, “Look at Jean’s charm. Look at Bérénice’s beauty. It would be crazy to have them kiss!”

At a private after party at Bacara, we had a chance to hang with the VIPs. The trio sat with Malcolm McDowell, who plays the Butler in the film (and introduced Michel), as well as Gene Kelly’s widow, Patricia (Kelly’s films were an inspiration for the tap dancing scene), and local Toluca Lake resident, Carol Marshall, who helms the festival PR.

Jean “worked” the Bacara’s Rotunda, posing and joking with festival sponsors. Bérénice, a na-tive of Argentina, whose dad is a filmmaker, Miguel Bejo, said: “I started with Spanish, and moved to French [when she was 3]. I am now speaking American and did a silent film. Go figure!” She looks like a cross between Natalie Wood and Leslie Caron. She and Michel have two young children, ages three and four months.

Speaking privately, Jean shows little problems with English, but had a translator on stage. SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling moderated, sometimes in French.

Joked Jean: “When I was younger, I had a lot of imaginary friends.” After joining his family’s construction business, his youth-ful ways led him to comedy and acting. He’s one of the few French TV stars to make the tran-sition to film.

Bérénice is known in the U.S. for A Knight’s Tale. Her first film with Jean was a comedy, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies.

“Everybody knew Jean and loved him,” said Bérénice. When she started The Artist, she felt challenged. “I had to prove to the crew that I was not just a wife.”

It took five months for the duo to learn to tap dance, a first for both. “Don’t believe it,” Jean said. “It only took three days!” Because of budget, the film took only seven weeks to shoot. Even though shown mostly in black/white, very few know it was shot in color in Los Angeles, where Jean is unknown. “I was able to see a Lakers game, have a beer, and go shopping. It was nice to be incognito.”

He added, “Michel is an in-credible guy. He likes to chal-lenge himself with new choices in the cinema. He was able to make something funny into something beautiful.”

Sue Facter owns a news agency that specializes in the luxury brand. Her work has appeared in USA Today, on broadcasts, and the web.

 

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Sue Facter writes about all things A-list for publications world-wide. Follow her on Twitter @TheFacter.

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