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French film producer Thomas Langmann poses on February 4, 2012 in Paris. Langmann produced the silent movie "The Artist" directed by filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius who received the top honor from the Directors Guild of America (DGA) in January 29, 2012. The film also won the top prize from the Producers Guild of America (PGA) and picked up three Golden Globes including best picture on January 15.  AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX (Photo credit should read THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images) Thomas Langmann in Paris. (THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

Langmann and Weinstein: The Two Crazy Men Who Gambled Big on The Artist

The Oscars are just three weeks away and it seems The Artist is securely locked in as the front-runner, with glowing reviews and awards piling up. While most of the buzz so far has been captured by the film's director (Michel Hazanavicius) and lead actor (Jean DuJardin), Deadline today brings us an interview with the film's producer and, as Hazanavicius called him, "the craziest man in France," Thomas Langmann. After affably discussing producer-side details like how even the French don't want to invest in a black-and-white silent film — "I knew it would be extremely difficult to finance, maybe impossible" — and the movie's over-budget 14 million euro ($18 million) cost (Hazanavicius and DuJardin took pay cuts to help out) Langmann turned to the man who helped bring The Artist to these shores, a man he thought well deserved the "crazy" label himself: Harvey Weinstein.

Harvey flew to France just to watch a black-and-white silent film he knew little about. He came about eight weeks before we went to Cannes. The film wasn’t completed [in its entirety] at that moment, but Harvey sat alone in the screening room and loved it. He’s also a crazy man. Harvey wasn’t with anyone else from his company nor friends. He was the only one in the screening room. Afterwards he said, “I want this film.” The movie at that stage was nothing. The movie wasn’t even assured to be released in France.

Langmann must've recognized a kindred spirit in Weinstein, having earlier in the interview described his own approach as, "Cinema is gambling. It is better to gamble on a unique film even if it seems like suicide." Or as he put it to director Hazanavicius when the film first went over budget: "The only way is if you make it a masterpiece. Otherwise we are in deep shit."

As for when he's at the Oscars later this month, it won't be the first time that Langmann is near (or even touches) a gold man. He's apparently had one at home for the last fifteen years, awarded to his father, director Claude Berri, for the 1965 short French film Le Poulet.

Photo: THOMAS COEX/2012 AFP