Oscar Directors: Hazanavicius, Michel (The Artist)

Michel Hazanavicius was born in Paris to a Jewish family, hailing back from Lithuania, which settled in France in the 1920s.

Before directing films, Hazanavicius worked in TV, making commercials for various companies. In 1993, he made his first feature, La Classe Americaine, for TV.  Co-directed by Dominique Mézerette, the film consisted of footage taken from various Warner movies, reedited and dubbed into French.

In 1997, Hazanavicius directed his first short, Echec au capital, followed by his first theatrical released, Mes Amis (My Friends), which starred his brother, Serge Hazanavicius.

Seven years later, Hazanavicius wrote and directed his second feature, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, a parody of 1960s spy movies, specifically of OSS 117, a popular character created by Jean Bruce in 1949. The film was a modest success, grossing $23 million worldwide. A sequel, OSS 117: Lost in Rio, followed in 2009. Both films were distributed in the US by Music Box.

The turning point in Hazanavicious career was The Artist, a black and white film without dialogue set in Hollywood on the eve of sound era. Premiering in competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Fest, The Artist was later released to universal acclaim, earning Hazanavicius three Oscar nominations for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing.

Hazanavicius said winning an Oscar was “like dreaming of going to the moon – you don’t really believe it could ever happen.”

He contributed a segment to the omnibus film The Players (Les Infidèles), starring Jean Dujardin.

His next film became sort of a sophomore jinx, a remake of Zinnemann’s 1948, melodrama, The Search, starring Berenice Bejo in the Montgomery Clift role as an NGO worker helping a little boy find his family in contempo Chechnya.

Hazanavicius was in a relationship with director Virginia Lovisone, and they have two daughters together, Simone and Fantine. He is married to Berenic Bejo, who acted in his films OSS 117 and The Artist; they have two children: Lucien and Gloria.