Monday, February 27, 2012
Oscar Winner for The Artist, Producer Thomas Langmann: Where Did He Come From?
What is it about the French that they love to embrace risk? Thomas Langmann just won the Oscar for producing The Artist. He sold his home and borrowed money from relatives to do so. Then he met Harvey Weinstein and the rest is cinema history.
Langmann's father was Claude Berri, whom I met on the beaches of St. Tropez in the early '70s. Berri was an actor and producer of some of France's finest films such as Jean de Florette and Manon du Source.
Each summer my ex-husband, Ron Mallory, and I would go to St. Tropez. My husband, who was a successful sculptor, would seek out collectors for his art while I would rest after having modeled in Paris. The plage Moorea was the equivalent of a casting session and film studio rolled into one. There were actors Raquel Welch, Romy Schneider, Jane Fonda. Producers, Sam Spiegel. Directors, Roman Polanski,Claude Berri, Bob Benton and the late David Newman who with Benton wrote Bonnie and Clyde. Newman and Benton were our good friends as we would party and sunbath together.
David Newman's close friend was Jean Pierre Rassam, who was an outrageous Lebanese producer. His sister was Ann Marie Rassam, who was married to Thomas Langmann's father, Claude Berri. Jean Pierre would entertain us under the sun with his great sense of being the buffoon. Pretending to be the buffoon. He was no buffoon. One never knew what he was going to say and this was his charm and I suspect he used this technique to get money out of potential backers for films. He produced eight films including Tu Va Bien and La Grand Bouffe. Once he introduced me to Philippe Rothschild, who was enormously conservative and yet Jean Pierre would arrive at the beach wearing a sheet and dressed liked an Arab out of Lawrence of Arabia while the rest of the sunbathers were focused on exposing as much flesh as possible. The look was tutti nudi.
Then there was Daniel Thompson, a beautiful screenwriter whose father Gerard Oury was the longtime companion of Michele Morgan. Sur le plage the French cinema was very well represented. As I write this I feel I am documenting the class history of 1972. Ron and I were invited to be guests of the Thompsons summer after summer and today Daniel is a director. She achieved fame writing Cousin Cousine. Her screenplay was nominated for an Oscar.
But it was Jean Pierre who was the most amusing of the entire gang. When I was engaged to Claude Picasso, Pablo's son, and living in Paris, I would have to sneak out to have a lunch with Jean Pierre as Claude was jealous of him. Oh, Jean Pierre was not good looking but he had pizzazz, was boisterous, not at all concerned with status quo like so many of the bourgeois French, and I loved him for this. He ended up marrying Carole Bouquet, the James Bond beauty. He died at a young age as he lived a fast life. But Jean Pierre had the fighting spirit that Claude Berri had as well. When Jean Pierre and Claude Berri co-produced the film of Roman Polanski's Tess, Jean Pierre invited me to go to the Oscars with their group as a date of Marcello Mastroianni, but I preferred to take a Quaalude and passed out on my living room floor along with my beau of that moment. Alas, I became sober soon afterwards.
What this whole crowd had in common was relentlessness and an unwillingness to give up despite tragedy. During my St. Tropez days Thomas Langmann was an infant, but he was raised with this mad hatter kind of joie de vivre which carried him through the deaths of his mother who committed suicide and his beloved uncle, Jean Pierre Rassam. Paul Rassam, Jean Pierre's brother, lent money to Langmann to produce The Artist.
But It is the embracing of risk for which he won the Oscar for Best Picture. It is the courage of his convictions that he inherited from this climate that I've tried to capture that is indicative of French cinema. Langmann sold his home and borrowed from relatives because he believed in an idea. This love of challenge is what Thomas Langmann is about and why he won the Oscar for producing The Artist.