January 25th, 2012
02:37 PM ET
Editor's Note: As an actor, Ken Davitian has appeared in several films, including "Get Smart" and "Borat." He has a bit role in the Academy Award nominated film "The Artist," which is up for best picture, among other awards. He is the author of this guest blog for Marquee.
I was always a big, big fan of black-and-white movies.
I’m mostly an admirer of the acting during that era of cinema, as it was so expressive. Today, most young filmmakers use black-and-white to be more artistic, but in the 1920s and ‘30s it was a common style. The filmmakers just didn’t have color yet, and they had to rely on the performers to portray a room full of color.When I received the script for “The Artist” I liked it immediately - though when I first met the director, Michel Hazanavicius, I told him he was gutsy for making a black-and-white silent film in this day and age.
I wasn’t really sure that it would go anywhere, to be honest, but I also wasn’t concerned with budget or box office. I just wanted to do something that was creatively challenging and that would be critically and artistically accepted. I am thrilled that that’s exactly how it turned out to be.
When I first read the script, I was taken aback by how romantic it was. I eventually found out that the director wrote it for his wife, Berenice Bejo, who stars in the film and has been nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress.
I thought the film was just such a beautiful love story, and I am not surprised that it resonates with today’s audiences. Nobody dies, there are no car chases, no one gets beaten up, and there are no naked people and no sex – just a happy movie with a happy ending. Moviegoers leave the movie feeling happy.
During the Great Depression, audiences went to the theater to escape reality. Looking at the world right now, it seems people are unhappy about their finances and their jobs, and concerned about their futures. I think people are eager to escape reality the way they did back then, and to have a film and its stars sweep them off their feet. It reminds them of the time when film stars were special and personified class. The movie brings back that old glamour of the studio system, and reminds people of how elegant, exceptional and special Hollywood was during that time.
Today’s movies are often filled with so much noise – explosions, guitar shrieking, yelling, hysteria. But this one is so quiet, it is almost silent (wink). The audience of today is a 3-D audience. Every movie has to be bigger: more exciting, more challenging, more full of special effects than the last picture.
But Hazanavicius toned it down. Because I am always big and over the top, I asked him if this is how he wanted me to act, but he said no, he wanted it real. I was actually happy to hear that. I had never known anyone who had studied for silent film, even in college. It was hard to find that middle ground of not exaggerating the expressions, but being expressive enough to replace the words.
That said, I don’t think we’ll be returning to silent pictures. I think it takes a genius like Mel Brooks (“Silent Movie”) or Michel to do this. Perhaps someone like Martin Scorsese, Darren Aronofsky or Francis Ford Coppola could pull it off, bringing things back from the past and completely re-envisioning them [to] make them work.
We have already won a Golden Globe award, and I can only pray that this movie will resonate with the members of the Academy as it has with the critics.
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