Best Actor Academy Award nominee Jean Dujardin – for Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist – is a first-time Oscar nominee and only the fourth Frenchman to be shortlisted for an Academy Award in the acting categories. Dujardin's predecessors were Best Actor nominees Maurice Chevalier for the Ernst Lubitsch musicals The Big Pond and The Love Parade (1929-30); Charles Boyer for Clarence Brown's Conquest (1937), John Cromwell's Algiers (1938), George Cukor's Gaslight (1944), and Joshua Logan's Fanny (1961); and Gérard Depardieu, the only actor nominated for a French-speaking role, for Jean-Paul Rappeneau's Cyrano de Bergerac (1990).
None of those three performers ended up taking home the Best Actor Oscar statuette, though at the 1959 Academy Awards ceremony Chevalier was awarded an Honorary Oscar “for his contributions to the world of entertainment for more than half a century.” (Not coincidentally, that was the year he failed to be nominated for Vincente Minnelli's Best Picture winner Gigi.)
Thanks to The Artist's popularity among movie-loving circles – and to The Weinstein Company's all-powerful Oscar machinery – Dujardin has a better chance at winning. Even so, local boy George Clooney, the star of Alexander Payne's The Descendants, will be hard to beat. Clooney has been the North American critics' favorite this awards season, and has taken home the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama. Dujardin, for his part, was the Golden Globe winner for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical.
For the record, Dujardin and Clooney's competition consists of Demián Bichir for Chris Weitz's A Better Life, Gary Oldman for Tomas Alfredson's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and Brad Pitt for Bennett Miller's Moneyball.
Jean Dujardin/The Artist photo: The Weinstein Company.