Jean Dujardin made film-award history after he won the 2012 Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as a fading silent film matinee idol in Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist. But before I proceed, I must say that those who compare Dujardin with former Best Actor Oscar winner Roberto Benigni (Life Is Beautiful, 1998) should watch more French and Italian films. The comparison is ludicrous. What Dujardin and Benigni have in common is that they've both made comedies and neither one of them speaks very good English. That's it. (Photo: Todd Wawrychuk / © A.M.P.A.S.)
Anyhow, Jean Dujardin was a first-time Academy Award nominee. His Best Actor competition consisted of Demián Bichir for Chris Weitz's A Better Life, Gary Oldman for Tomas Alfredson's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, George Clooney for Alexander Payne's The Descendants, and Brad Pitt for Moneyball.
As a result of his victory, Dujardin has become the first Frenchman to take home an Oscar in the acting categories. Charles Boyer, Maurice Chevalier, and Gérard Depardieu had all been nominated, but had never won. I should add that French-born actresses have had better luck at the Academy Awards, as can be attested by Best Actress winners Claudette Colbert (Frank Capra's It Happened One Night, 1934), Simone Signoret (Jack Clayton's Room at the Top, 1959), and Marion Cotillard (Olivier Dahan's Ma Vie en Rose, 2007), and Best Supporting Actress winner Juliette Binoche (Anthony Minghella's The English Patient, 1996).
And finally, Dujardin has also become the very first actor to win an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and a Best Actor Award at Cannes — in addition to being the second actor to win an Oscar, a Best Actor Cannes trophy, and a BAFTA; the first one was William Hurt for Hector Babenco's Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985).
Among actresses, Simone Signoret also won Cannes / Oscar / BAFTA (Best Foreign Actress) for her performance in Room at the Top. But she lost the Best Actress – Drama Golden Globe to Elizabeth Taylor in Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Suddenly Last Summer.
Sophia Loren was another triple winner, but she failed to be nominated for a Golden Globe for Vittorio de Sica's Two Women (1961). Loren may have been ineligible at the time, as de Sica's World War II drama is in Italian.
Ironically, two days before the Academy Awards ceremony, Dujardin lost the French Oscar, the César, to The Intouchables' Omar Sy. But Dujardin surely laughed last on Oscar night.
Note: As pointed out by a commenter (see below), Jean Dujardin also won the SAG Award for Best Actor. I left that one out because the SAG Awards are fairly new — less than two decades old. And as pointed out by another commenter, Inglourious Basterds' Christoph Waltz also won Oscar / Cannes / BAFTA / Golden Globe / and SAG Award. Though I certainly should have mentioned Waltz in this piece, apart from his Best Actor Cannes victory he was a Best Supporting Actor winner. Dujardin's wins were all as a lead.