1 to 1: Michel Hazanavicius

1 to 1: Michel Hazanavicius

The director’s road to Tokyo is paved in Oscar gold


Michel Hazanavicius (left) with Fox Backstage Pass host Matthew Ireton (right)

When you make an interview entrance by bringing along your freshly-minted Oscar, it’s a hard act to follow. That’s what happened when we caught up with French director/producer/scriptwriter Michel Hazanavicius during his last visit to Japan.

His film, The Artist, had just won Best Picture at the 84th Academy Awards, and Hazanavicius took home the Oscar for Best Director. But he didn’t seem to have time to make it home from the ceremony as the film’s Japan premiere came on the heels of his Hollywood trip—so he literally carried the Oscar statue around and brought it to his interview with Fox Backstage Pass host Matthew Ireton.

Maybe the award-winning filmmaker knew it was going to be hard to top that experience so, instead of a statue, this time he brought to Tokyo the next best thing: Another great movie, The Gift.

He credits the accolades The Artist earned with paving the path to making The Search.

“The Academy Awards gave me the chance to increase my expression, which meant, for me, that the door is open. I had always wanted to make this movie, even before I won the Academy Awards. After the Academy Awards, I got so many offers. However, I knew what I wanted to make, so I started this project naturally. I started to make this movie a week after I won the Oscar,” Hazanavicius explained.

He said his interest in the Chechen War fueled his desire to remake the original 1948 film.

“I have been shocked for a long time [by the Chechen War]. Many atrocities were committed during the war. That was a terrible war. Besides that, I was shocked that the international community seemed to have no interest in the truth—so I made it happen. I could film in a wonderful situation; by that, I mean I was able to raise the funds for this movie, and could make this movie not only entertaining, but also dramatic,” Hazanavicius continued, adding, “I think [the] Oscar gave me this chance!”

The film also gave the Frenchman an opportunity to work with his wife, actress Bérénice Bejo, and noted Hollywood actress Annette Bening.

“In regards to Bérénice, she was interested in the Chechen War as well. At the beginning of this project, we worked closely together, met the same people, and watched the same documentary. We shared many of the same experiences surrounding this movie. That’s why she was interested in this movie from the beginning, and she invested so much of herself in the film,” Hazanavicius said.

Attracting Bening required a more traditional route. “I sent the script to her. She read the entire script in just two days and decided to take this right after she finished reading it. It impressed me a lot. She also researched the Chechen War to prepare for this movie. She is an amazing woman as well as a wonderful actress. All of the film’s staff fell in love with her. I’m so glad to have worked with her.”

Like The Artist, Hazanavicius’ latest film is receiving critical acclaim. With an impressive track record growing by the project, we wonder what his next Tokyo trip will bring.