AND PENELOPE ANN MILLER BECOMES "AWARD-SEASON MVP"
Penelope Ann Miller spent about three days filming her part in Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist, but she was one of the few actresses to show interest in taking a chance on a silent movie by a French director. The film won best picture at tonight's Academy Awards, and Hazananvicius won for best director. What initially drew Miller to the film was the chance to spend time in the world of the 1920s, a period she says she enjoys. Here she is pictured arriving at tonight's Academy Award ceremony in a dress she told the Hollywood Reporter features 1920s elements. To design the dress, she collaborated with Badgley Mischka. It is the first time Miller has ever been to the Oscar ceremony, and The Carpetbagger's Melena Ryzik makes a case for Penelope as the 2012 Award-Season M.V.P. for her tireless promotion of The Artist.
Miller has been out of the spotlight since about the 1990s, the decade in which she appeared in Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way. According to Naughty But Nice Rob, Miller was an '80s "It" girl who now, interestingly, "compares her celebrity during her acting heyday to that of Rachel McAdams today." Miller tells Rob that she stepped away from the limelight to start a family. She also talked to The Insider's Jarett Wieselman about the script for The Artist and how she came to be cast in the film:
Yes, there was a script but it was just, it was more descriptive than dialogue. It really read like a story. Michel [Hazanavicius, writer/director] really did a beautiful job -- it was bound and on each side of the page there were photographs of Berenice [Bejo] and Jean [Dujardin] in period costume, and period locations. It was very picturesque. It was definitely unusual, so I did get this almost hesitant call from my agent saying, "They're making this black and white silent film and it's set in the 20s." That perked me up because I love the 20s, and I asked, "Well, who is in it?" He said, "The two leads are French and the director is French," and I'd never heard of them nor could I pronounce their names [laughs]. And I thought that this was getting more interesting by the minute.
Miller told the Orange County Register's Richard Chang a bit more details about that initial phone call, and her first meeting with Hazanavicius:
Q: How did you get cast for this picture?
A: My agent, who has a relationship with the casting director, called me. I was interested in at least reading it. There were actors who weren't interested. They're probably kicking themselves right now. There are those of us who are willing to take that leap of risk, who had faith. Obviously, it was a very far-fetched notion. In "Chaplin," you could hear the dialogue. With this, this is like a full-blown silent film.
But I love the '20s. I'm an old movie buff. I'm very nostalgic about old Hollywood. I sort of welcomed the opportunity and thought this could be kind of fun. It definitely could be a real hit or a real miss. If it was a miss, oh well, I can move on.
Q: What was it like to work with director Michel Hazanavicius? He isn't that well-known in the U.S.
A: When I met him, I discovered he'd really done his homework. He had a really strong vision. I told him we both shared the passion for the old movies. He knew how he wanted to film it, what he was doing. He really hired the top of the line to work with him. The cinematographer was the guy he's always worked with. The hair and makeup worked with some real big stars. People on the technical side loved the artistic side of the film. How many opportunities do you get to make a movie like this? It wasn't going to be a huge, long schedule. I took it for the art of it.
HAVANAVICIUS ON SIX SILENT FILMS THAT INSPIRED 'THE ARTIST'
When Havanavicius accepted the best picture award at tonight's Oscar ceremony, he thanked Billy Wilder, Billy Wilder, and Billy Wilder. But back in November, Hazanavicius shared with Indiewire's Eric Kohn notes on six silent films that inspired The Artist. The first of the six listed is Josef von Sternberg's Underworld. Released in 1927, the screenplay for Underworld was written by Ben Hecht, who was awarded the first-ever Academy Award for Best Screenplay for the film. Hecht went on to write the screenplay for Howard Hawks's Scarface, and De Palma's remake of that film is dedicated to Hawks and Hecht. Havanavicius states, "All of Scarface, and even Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, comes from Underworld. The way that director Josef von Sternberg shot women was incredible. It's super-sensual, and really amazing to see a gangster movie as good as anything by Tarantino from this period."
The other five silent films noted by Havanavicius are Tod Browning's The Unknown, F.W. Murnau's Sunrise and City Girl, King Vidor's The Crowd, and Charlie Chaplin's City Lights.