EXCLUSIVE: 'The Artist' Star Bérénice Bejo Reveals Why Her Parents Fled Argentina

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Argentinean actress Bérénice Bejo received a Golden Globe nomination this morning for her charming performance in the French-silent film, The Artist. This is the third nomination for Bejo this week (she was also nominated for a Screen Actor's Guild Award and a Critics Choice Award), and several movie websites are predicting that the talented actress will receive an Oscar nomination in January! 

Bejo, 35, is humbled by the recognition she's been getting, and when we spoke with her a few weeks ago, she told us none of the success would be possible were it not for the sacrifices of her parents, who fled Buenos Aires in the '70s to give Bérénice and her sister a better life. "I remember sending an email to my parents saying ‘thank you for giving me and my sister the chance of having a good life," Bejo remembers. Read on to get to know the talented actress, who's about to become a household name in Hollywood! 

WATCH: Argentinean Oscar Contender Bérénice Bejo Dishes on 'The Artist'

Where were you born?

I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

When did you move to France?

I was three years old. I’ve been living in France for a while, but I feel Argentinean and French—both. 

Did you visit Argentina often while you were growing up?

My parents ran away from Argentina. The way they talked about the country was pretty bad. They didn’t want to go back. It was very emotional for them. So for a long time, I didn’t go. Then in 2001, I decided I needed to go figure it out by myself.

Why did your parents leave Argentina?

They left because of the dictator. There was a dictator in the 1970s. The military was in power. My mother was a lawyer and she used to be against the military. And my dad was a director and he used to do movies against the military, too. My mom was on a list and a bunch of her partners were killed and she decided she had to move. She came to Paris with my dad and my sister and me.

What did you think of Argentina during your visit?

In 2001, I went there for a month and they had like four or five presidents. My sister lived there with her family and she couldn’t even buy a bottle of Coca-Cola. It was really hard. I could see the young people, they all wanted to go away. And at the same time, I really loved it. I saw all of my family, I love the energy and the city. I felt really sad and really happy that my parents gave me the opportunity to be somewhere else and to have a life somewhere else. I remember sending an email to my parents saying ‘thank you for giving me and my sister the chance of having a good life.” But today, they’re doing so much better. The President is a good President.

You were born in Argentina, but raised in France. Did you grow up with any Argentinean traditions?

The only tradition that we have is that the door is always open. All my friends know my parents since I was 10 and we party together. I think that’s more Argentinean than French. You drink a beer with your dad or a friend of your dad and everybody’s together like a big family. I remember at my 18th birthday, my friends would say ‘we are going to party with your parents? Are we going to be able to drink beer?’ It was very funny. But the Argentinean people—the family is very strong. And there’s a lot of friends around and food. That’s something I get from Argentina.

Did your parents raise you speaking Spanish?

They spoke to me in Spanish and I answered in French. And today, I have kids and I speak to them in Spanish and they answer me in French {Laughs}. But in the end, my kids can talk to their grandparents who live in Argentina and don’t speak French—and they have a relationship with my family who doesn’t speak French. And they speak two languages and it’s great.

Sofia Vergara, Bérénice Bejo Nominated for Golden Globe Awards! 

Your performance in The Artist is sublime, and yet you don’t say a single word in the film. Was that challenging as an actor?

Well, it’s not totally true. I say lots of words, but you don’t hear them. And so the challenge was not mine—the challenge was actually for the director, because he’s the one who has to tell the story without any dialogue and any sound. He had to find a way of telling the story just with images. But for me as an actress, I had dialogue and I played the dialogue, but there was no sound recording. So for me, the challenge was to make Americans believe that I was an American actress and make you forget that I was French-Argentinean, and so I really focused on that. I watched a lot of Hollywood movies from the ‘30s and ‘40s because for me it’s the perfect Hollywood love story. I tried to understand how Americans act. They don’t overact, but they’re always larger than life and speak with their body. For me, John Goodman is the perfect American way of acting—everything is said in his face. In France, we don’t use so much the body and the face. We’re very minimalist. So I tried to let my body speak and have fun with the expressions and everything. That was my challenge.


 

 

 

 

 

 

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