French male actors have not quite made their mark on the Academy Awards like their female counterparts. There have been only a handful of nominations since the awards started and very few of them have been for a movie in the French language.
The first French actor to be nominated for an Oscar was Maurice Chevalier. He was nominated in 1929 for ‘The Big Pond’ and in 1930 for ‘The Love Parade’. Neither of these is a French language movie but Chevalier was a huge star in Hollywood at the time.
In 1938 came the first nomination for Charles Boyer for his role in ‘Maria Walewska’. He was nominated again in 1939 for ‘Algiers’, in 1945 for ‘Gaslight’ and in 1961 for ‘Fanny’. None of these were French-language films but he is the most-nominated French actor at the Oscars. Unfortunately, none of these nominations translated into a win.
The first actor to be nominated for a French-speaking role was Gérard Depardieu. His nomination came in 1990 for his role in ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’. This is widely considered to be one of the best French movies ever made and the nomination for Best Actor was not the only nomination. The film also picked up nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, Best Makeup and Best Art Direction as well as Best Costume Design, which it won.
It was not until 2011 that another French actor was nominated for an Oscar. Jean Dujardin picked up his nomination for his role in ‘The Artist’. This was a French movie but was made in the style of the old black and white silent movies, so the audience never gets the chance to engage with the language. It was nominated for 10 Oscars in total, collecting five of those, including the award for Dujardin, making him the first French male actor to win an Academy Award.