CANNES, France — Jean Dujardin is one of the most bankable stars in French cinema, having made his name in comedy before spreading out into more serious roles.
Dujardin, who turns 39 on June 11, collected best-actor honours at Cannes on Sunday for his sparking performance as a vain fallen Hollywood star, George Valentin, in Michel Hazanavicius's silent movie "The Artist".
Fans of French film know him for his expressive face and killer smile, with some comparing him to screen legend Jean-Paul Belmondo.
The pairing of actor and director was no accident: the two previously teamed up for the "OSS 177" series of spoof spy capers that have scored big at the French box office.
Born in the Paris suburb of Rueil-Malmaison, Dujardin sharpened his acting chops with stage and television roles, before moving on to the big screen in 2003 with the comedy "Welcome to the Roses".
Two years later he starred in the French Riviera surfer comedy "Brice de Nice", before breaking out as the unflappable special agent Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath in "OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies".
His comic performance earned him a best actor nomination at the Cesar awards, the French counterpart of the Oscars.
"OSS 117" was inspired by French spy novels by Jean Bruce that predated Ian Fleming's 007 novels by several years, and black-and-white scenes foretold the style that would re-emerge with "The Artist".
Dujardin reprised his winning role in "OSS 117: Lost in Rio", in 2009 before embarking on "The Artist", for which he and Hazanavicius studied countless old movies to decipher the secrets of silent film-making.
According to the French newspaper Le Figaro, Dujardin is the best-paid male actor in France, earning 2.3 million euros (3.3 million dollars) -- second only in earnings to Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard.
Yet it was only when "The Artist" was placed at the last minute in competition for the Palme d'Or that Dujardin had a chance to walk the red carpet in Cannes for the first time.
"This is a real loss of virginity," he quipped.
Stretching his acting talents, Dujardin has taken on more serious roles in the Nicolas Boukhrief thriller "Le Convoyeur".
In the Bertrand Blier drama "The Clink of Ice", he played an alcoholic writer in dialogue with a personification of the cancer that is taking his life.
And in Franck Mancuso's "Counter Investigation" Dujardin plays a police officer searching for the real killer of his daughter.
Dujardin is married to actress Alexandra Lamy.
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