Belgian Oscar entry surprised many, including its maker

Thu Feb 16, 2012 4:55pm EST
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By Jordan Riefe

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Among the big surprises at January's Oscar nominations was a foreign language movie nod for Belgium's "Bullhead," and perhaps nobody was more shocked than its first-time director, Michael Roskam, and leading man, Matthias Schoenaerts.

The nomination, Oscar watchers seemed certain, would go to the Dardennes brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, who are icons of Belgian cinema. After all, their "The Kid with a Bike" won a Grand Prix award at the Cannes film festival last May and "Kid" is widely-considered their most accessible film yet.

"I thought this time they will make it because they were never Academy Award nominated," Schoenaerts told Reuters. "And then it came as a surprise that we made it."

Schoenaerts was in France when he heard the news on the set of his new movie, "Rust & Bone," which is co-produced by the none other than the Dardennes.

"They came to visit us on set," he said. "They were really happy and they really appreciate Michael's work and mine."

In "Bullhead," Schoenaerts plays Jacky Vanmarsenille, a muscled-up, steroid-injecting cattle farmer whose tragic childhood continues to cripple him as an adult.

Jacky is linked to the "hormone mafia," a criminal network that distributes livestock-enhancing steroids throughout Europe where it remains illegal. When an investigator is assassinated, Jacky's world caves in around him.

"I wanted the audience to see an artificially built man, a man that was not supposed to be so muscled," said Roskam, who was recently named one of Variety magazine's ten new directors to watch for 2012.   Continued...

Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts poses for Reuters in Los Angeles February 10, 2012. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich