January 24th, 2012
02:05 PM ET
Thomas Langmann, one of the producers of “The Artist,” always had a love for traditional cinema.
Not surprising for a man who grew up in a family immersed in filmmaking. His father was Claude Berri, an acclaimed French actor, writer, producer and director who won the Oscar in 1966 for the short film “Le Poulet,” and was involved in the industry for more than 50 years.
So when Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist's" director, approached him with his idea of a black-and-white silent movie about a silent movie star’s rise and fall, Langmann didn't say no because he had a dream.
“I thought if Michel would succeed in this picture then it would bring back black-and-white film,” Langmann told CNN. “It’s a risk that I took.”
The gamble certainly worked, at least in terms of its critical success. Anyone keeping up with the awards season would have noticed that “The Artist” has been taking it by storm. After gaining the top prize at the Producers Guild Awards and winning big at the Golden Globes this year, it was announced this morning that the movie has earned 10 Academy Award nominations.
“Being recognized by Hollywood is a dream true, it’s really an amazing moment," Langmann said. “You all like it for all the good reasons, [and] it’s a huge pleasure to see that.”
However, the journey was not at all easy for the producer. In the early stages, Langmann could not procure the backing of major studios, which were not convinced that a silent black-and-white movie would fare well in the age of 3-D and effects-heavy blockbusters, and had to use his own funds.
“As soon as we said to someone that it’s a black-and-white film, they used to say, ‘Well what’s your next project?’ or they would make a weird face,” he said. “So we had to put in our own money. My company invested a lot in this movie but that’s the way cinema was done for many years. That’s how I was raised.”
Langmann said that even though the way it was filmed makes “The Artist” unique, it’s not the main reason for all the positive response.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s black-and-white,” he said. “If a movie has a story that is filled with emotion, you can have as much pleasure and it’s very good for cinema. And younger audiences have come out of the theater saying, ‘It’s not boring.’”
For Langmann, whose father passed away in 2009, the Oscar nomination is in one way affirming his destiny to follow in his Berri’s footsteps.
“I feel very privileged,” he said. “My father came from a poor Jewish family. In those times he didn’t have the money to even buy a flight ticket, so the Oscar came by the mail to us. I wish he could have been alive to see this.”
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