Oscar-Winning Director of 'The Artist' Returns to Comedy Roots

Joe Pugliese
Michel Hazanavicius

Paris-based Michel Hazanavicius is set to shoot the U.S. comedy for Paramount in Los Angeles.

Oscar-winning French director Michel Hazanavicius is returning to comedy for his next feature after making Chechen war drama The Search.

Hazanavicius, whose black-and-white, dialog-free tribute to silent movies, The Artist, picked up five Academy Awards in 2012 — including best director — is planning to shoot Will, a scripted comedy hailing from Paramount, in Los Angeles later this year.

The Paris-based director, who also co-produces his films, tells The Hollywood Reporter that the screenplay, written by comedian Demetri Martin, had been offered to him among a slew of projects following his Oscar success.

Speaking at the 20th edition of Lithuania's Vilnius International Film Festival Wednesday, where Hazanavicius is presenting a screening of The Search, he said: "I was sent many scripts that I had to decline as I was already committed to making my next film, but I liked this project, and was impressed when I told them they would have to wait two years if they wanted me to do it and they agreed."

He describes the script as a "sleeper" that had been written a decade ago but never produced.

"I liked the script. There is no cynicism or irony — it is a very positive comedy. There is nothing mean in it. It is a completely American comedy. It can be very good and very funny," he said.

Hazavanicius, whose grandparents were born in Lithuania but left in the 1920s, added that he expected financing to close soon and to shoot the film this year, with a release anticipated in 2016.

He is yet to cast the movie, which is set in Los Angeles, but says he would like to cast his wife, Berenice Bejo, though he doubts he will cast her Artist co-lead Jean Dujardin — whom he describes as his favorite actor — as the comedy is very much an American story.

"Berenice is easy to work with and a very talented actress," he added.

Hazanavicius began his directing career at French TV channel CanalPlus before moving into features. He directed two spy spoofs — OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and Oss 117: Lost in Rio — before gaining worldwide fame with The Artist.

Hazanavicius being a fan of silent and classic movies, The Search was based on Fred Zinnemann's 1948 Montgomery Clift-starring film with the same title, about a boy searching for his mother after being released from a Nazi concentration camp.