‘The Artist’ Star Jean Dujardin Nabs Best Actor Oscar

The French actor bests George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman and Demian Bichir in the hotly contested race.

For several weeks, conventional wisdom foretold that the Best Actor contest would come down to George Clooney (“The Descendants”) and Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”), and Sunday night (February 26), the suspense was finally lifted.

And the Oscar went to: Jean Dujardin.

Dujardin bested a field that included Clooney’s pal Brad Pitt (“Moneyball”), veteran actor/ first time nominee Gary Oldman (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) and Mexican-born Demian Bichir (“A Better Life”). “The Artist” also took home awards in two other major categories, Best Director and Best Picture.

Many viewers snickered when the Oscars announcer teased a commercial break by saying, “With no clear favorite, anyone could win” leading into the bigger awards. Several of the winners at the 84th Annual Academy Awards were long thought to be foregone conclusions, but Best Actor was one of the more hotly contested, as both Clooney and Dujardin racked up several awards at ceremonies leading up to Sunday.

The 39-year-old French actor and comedian spent this awards season accumulating victories at the AACTA, BAFTA, Cannes, the Golden Globes, Hollywood Film Festival, Independent Spirit Awards and several critical associations.

“Key to the success of ‘The Artist’ is the work of its two French stars,” wrote the Los Angeles Times’ Kenneth Turan. “Dujardin and [Bérénice] Bejo, bursting off the screen like irrepressible Roman candles, give performances that are both subtle and incandescent, reminding us of the truth of silent star Norma Desmond’s famous ‘Sunset Blvd.’ line, ‘We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces.’ ”

Awards for “The Descendants” are undoubtedly crowding Clooney’s mantlepiece. The 50-year-old actor’s portrayal of conflicted father Matt King earned him trophies at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards, the Golden Globes and the Hollywood Film Festival, among others. He won his first Oscar in 2005 for “Syrianna.”

On the red carpet before the show, Clooney told MTV News he’d like to see the award go to his thrice-nominated pal.

“Let’s give it to Brad. I love him.”

The MTV Movies team has the 2012 Oscars covered! Keep it locked at MTV.com all night and beyond for updates on the night’s big winners and the best red-carpet fashion. Join the live conversation by tweeting @MTVNews with the hashtag #Oscars.