Harvey Weinstein on Backing The Artist

The movie mogul and co-chairman of the Weinstein Group discusses his bet on an unlikely Oscar front-runner: a silent film in black and white

Of all the movies in my career, The Artist was probably the most difficult decision for financial people to accept. They really didn’t get it. When was the last time any network showed a silent movie? Television stations hardly play black-and-white movies, much less something silent. So there’s only one venue for this movie: It’s theatrical, unless you create something so vast that you can get the American TV stations to come off the conservative bent that they have.

My brother Bob paused when he first heard about it on the phone. I said, “Black-and-white,” and he said, “O.K.” I named the actor, and he said, “Never heard of him.” I named some of the American cast, and he said, “Fine, fine, fine.” Then, when I said, “It’s silent,” there was silence. The King’s Speech had just won the Best Picture Oscar, and some people said I’d let that go to my head.

I’ve learned you just have to let the movie do the talking. You desperately need the critics to be champions for it. We did a long and patient campaign to market this movie back in April, before Cannes. It will easily be one year that we’ve devoted to this movie. When people say we’re aggressive, it’s unfounded. You cannot influence the Academy on what to vote for. We just want to make sure it’s seen.

Producing a movie is always a tough decision. Each time, it’s another blank sheet of paper. I regret being 10 minutes late to La Femme Nikita, because I had no idea that the beginning of the movie was so influential. I would have at least bid for it. Instead, I walked out confused. When you’re passionate about something, you have to go forward. It’s why I did My Left Foot when five studio chiefs told me not to do it.

We know how to do this. We created Miramax. Now it’s just a different name on the door. We expanded and went through some tough times. We’ve gotten back to what we’re good at. Bob and I are curious people. I love working with people like Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady or Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn. It’s about finding something special. I think people appreciate it when their multiplex isn’t filled with middle-of-the-road movies from Hollywood. — As told to Diane Brady

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