'The Artist' Helmer Michel Hazanavicius on Portraying Renowned French New Wave Director Godard

Godard Mon Amour

The Cohen Media film 'Godard Mon Amour' is set to premiere in U.S. theaters April 20.

Many love his films, but few have ever had the experience of falling in love with Jean-Luc Godard. In his latest film, Godard Mon Amour, which premiered last year at Cannes under the title Le Redoutable, Oscar-winning director of The Artist Michel Hazanavicius brings to life the memoir of Godard's ex-wife Anne Wiazemsky in a dramedy focused on the clash between the French New Wave icon's marriage and his obsession with radical revolutionary philosophies after the May '68 protests in France. 

Hazanavicius tells THR he was a huge fan of Godard's early work, but was drawn to his story because of Anne's narration. "I read the book written by Anne Wiazemsky, his ex-wife during that period, and I literally fell in love with the characters, with the context, and with the topics they were dealing with," Hazanavicius says. 

Frustrations over capitalism, the status quo and the lack of improvements being made in education sparked a rebellion against the French government in May ‘68. Although Wiazemsky participated in the protests as well, Godard was impacted so heavily by the events that he abandoned his career as a more conventional director to create work that was in tune with the volatile political climate.

"Now that I've worked on his life and his career, I think I would've picked this period anyway, because it's the first major fracture," Hazanavicius says. "It's the first time he decided to erase everything to destroy himself, to destroy everything he knew, everybody he knew."

It would be hard to guess that actor Louis Garrel — who embodies the arrogant, witty Godard down to the director's slight lisp — "loves Godard" and "almost worships him," according to Hazanavicius. "I mean really, so it was very tricky for him, because he knew that the movie was making fun of Godard. So I put him in this ridiculous situation, a difficult situation," Hazanavicius admits. "But also it was good, because when you have an actor who wants to defend the character — that's the best thing you can expect from an actor."

The revolution in 1968 didn't stop on the streets — it went all the way to Cannes, as the festival was forced to shut down after protests by Godard and other directors. This year, Cannes is experiencing another major roadblock as Netflix decided to pull its films from the festival because of the restrictive requirements the streamer believes Cannes puts on competition films. 

"I try to see things in the director's point of view, or the movie's point of view," Hazanavicius says in response to the conflict. "If Netflix is the only option for you to make your movie, if they are the only ones who will finance your movie, I mean, of course." 

The Artist skyrocketed Hazanavicius to international fame in 2011 as the film won best picture, receiving 10 Oscar nominations and five wins. The film was also a victory for Harvey Weinstein and his company, which distributed the movie. 

"I was really not aware," Hazanavicius says when asked his thoughts on Weinstein, who now faces over 60 sexual assault and misconduct allegations. "I could see that he wasn't the nice guy, he wasn't like a sweet guy, but I couldn't imagine he was that brutal." 

When it comes to winning an Oscar, Hazanavicius just chalks it up to a great experience. "A lot of people told me at this time, 'Oh, this is great! Your life is going to change.' But then I was like, 'What if I don't want my life to change?'" Hazanavicius says. "I don't try to be more humble than I am. But to be put as best director with Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg or Terrence Malick, that doesn't make any sense. People love the movie, and they wanted to award it, and it was cool. But I don't have to believe more than that. I put some distance with it."