Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
November 10, 2007.
It's been quite a year
for Spanish actor Javier Bardem. With his three recent films, Goya's
Ghost, No Country for Old Men and Love in the Time of Cholera,
being released almost back to back, the 38-year-old scion of an old acting
family is now in the public eye more than ever. Not only has he logged time
doing these explosive roles but has also for working with some of the finest
directors of the moment from Mike Newell to the Coen brothers.
In Mike Newell's Love in The Time of Cholera, Bardem plays Florentino
Ariza, the love-struck suitor who keeps his flame burning for Fermina over
50 years; in the Coens' No Country for Old Men he plays the
psychopathic Anton Chigurh cutting deathly swath while trying to recovering
his bag of more than $2 million in drug money near the Rio Grande. These two
parts couldn't be more contrasting.
Though the Madrid-based Bardem has done more than 25 films and won various
awards, it wasn't until he played the late homosexual Cuban writer Reinaldo
Arenas in Before Night Falls and as garnered a Best Actor Oscar nom,
that he really got international recognition. Then he played Ramσn Sampedro
a 55-year-old quadriplegic Spaniard who fought to end his own life in
The Sea Inside which drew further accolades to Bardem. Now with these
recent English-speaking roles ones that fully illustrate his range
Bardem is attracting more awards-oriented praise.
Are you surprised at your success in getting all these English-speaking
roles? You've made the transition from a foreign-language actor quite
Well, I see all these things as an actor. I live in Spain and my career is
there. The exception is when I work out of Spain, but it's good that a year
and a half ago it seemed that most of the offers were coming from the
I want to work. I want to work no matter where it is. I don't care where it
is. I want to work and to do my job as good as I can but it's not something
that I choose. It's something that happens.
For example, Antonio [Banderas] really took that step [first] and really
kind of made it. I'm not brave enough to take that step. I think that my
performance in English will never be the same as it is in Spanish because of
the language difference. So far, though, I try to work hard at what I do. In
English, I work on the language so that it makes me feel at least
comfortable with what I'm saying.
How do you feel about being the new brand of Spain star the archetype
of the Spanish male sex symbol. You're one of the biggest stars there and
now internationally; you took that role in Nine away from Antonio
What do I think about being a new brand?
In some ways people identify Spain with you.
What do you mean?
How can anyone define anything with me? First of all, that's not true. I'm
only an actor from Spain. Beyond that, what they say or what they want to
think about it or what they want to create out of it because they need to
sell papers is fine. It's totally ridiculous that I would be a brand of
And about Antonio Banderas, I'm not taking away any role [by playing the
lead in Nine]. The Nine situation is something that we're
taking a look at, but I have how do you say the pleasure of seeing him
onstage doing Nine and he was great. I also had the pleasure of going
to see him and saying "Hello" after the play. I mean, I was blown away
because of his energy. He was a master on that stage and that's pretty
I don't know what's going to happen with Nine, but I don't think that
anyone can take the position or the place that Antonio Banderas has in this,
and in any other market, because he has been a pioneer. And for all of the
actors that are going behind him it's a great favor, what he did. He was the
first person who took the bags, the luggage, and went to a foreign country
without speaking any words and making a career. That's something that we
should be really, really thankful for.
Did you find that your character in
Goya's Ghost complements your
character in Love in the Time of Cholera? Sexuality is a big issue in
The thing with Goya is that I don't see anything in common. He was a
tough guy. [That's not the case with Florentino.]
One was sort of
repressed and this one was far freer in a sense.
There's something that's really like a priest in this character, the way of
hiding himself reminded me a little bit of Goya's Ghost, but I try to
avoid [doing] the same stuff.
On the other hand, were you able to find any humanity in your character
in No Country for Old Men since he is a cold-blooded killer?
Yeah. I think that I tried to do a symbolic figure rather than a human being
in there. The good thing is that I did it one month afterwards and this was
like a clean shower for me.
Did you stay in character throughout?
Oh yes, I was a character even when I didn't want to. When I would wake up
and take a shower, and I had the same haircut, there was so much grease on
it, that it was still the same. And when I go out to buy milk, people get
frightened. I guess the thought of working with them is something that as a
Spanish actor is impossible to even imagine.
Keep in mind that the first time I arrived in the States was in 2000, at the
Georgia Film Festival, my agent asked, "Who would you like to work with?" I
said the Coens. And he said "No, that's impossible, next." I said "Why?"
And he said that's never going to happen.
So when that possibility took place, I was really honored. But I had some
problems with the character because in Europe we don't have problems with
having sex on camera, but we give second thought to guns. So I flew in,
talked to the brothers and they convinced me. It took like one second for me
to say yes. So from there, I thought it was fun just to be there and kill
people and go back to the motel and sleep.
Is it fun to kill people?
It's not something that I had fun with. I remember one day in the motel when
I killed three guys, we shot that and waited for the next day, and the blood
was all along the walls, I almost vomited. And I'm there to play the bad guy
so its weird.
Does it have an effect on you?
No. It's only a movie, but its not something that I would like to do. For
once I had fun.
You've recently introduced Woody Allen to Spain as a location for his new
film Vicky Cristina Barcelona. What was that experience like?
Yeah. It's funny because Milos Foreman and Woody Allen are both masters, and
they went to Spain and I worked in Spain with them, which is even better.
They went there. I think that Woody Allen had a good time and he realized, I
think, and as Milos realized, the great quality of people in everyone in
the crew, and the technical staff.
The crews really work
hard, but at the same time are very nice and warm. Both of them were really
surprised by that because I guess that they were expecting something
How do you feel about making Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel Love in the
Time of Cholera in English and not in Spanish since it is based on such a
Once again, it's very well-conceived and you have to get onboard or not,
though I would have preferred that it was in Spanish. There were many
moments where I said, "Fuck. If it were in Spanish I could really make it
another thing." That's because there's an understanding, a knowledge of the
language that you can play with that's in the novel.
There are certain words that mean something deep because they belong to your
own memories and experiences, and you bring them with you and the character
will go to another level. But when you're working in a foreign language you
have to try and put that as surgery. You have to try and put those
experiences into those words that don't mean anything to you, which is extra
It's also a great experience too, though, because you have to really focus
and you have to really be able to let yourself go as an actor and using the
currency of a language that's not your own. It's a weird, kind of
schizophrenic moment, but it's good.
Did the book have the same effect on you when you read it in Spanish and
then read the script in English? Screenwriter Ron Harwood did a fine job
with the adaptation.
No, that's impossible. I mean, I was always working with the book in
Spanish. When I was shooting the movie I always had the book in my bag and I
was always coming back to it and reading it and pulling notes from it.
You're in this universe of what you're reading, the language of Gabriel
Garcia Marquez in Spanish, and to go to set and say it in English was a
weird situation. Sometimes I would get lost in the translation. It was
obvious sometimes that I wasn't bringing what I could.
You read this book
when you were fourteen and it made a big impression on you. How did that
affect your feelings for it as an adult, especially in getting to portray
Well, the first time I read it, it was so big. It's such a big novel. I
mean, I followed the storyline, but I remember being thoroughly stuck in the
reading of it. I was trying to get lost in the descriptions, for example,
when she goes to the market and the way that Gabriel Garcia Marquez can
explain the flavors and the smells of the fruits and all of that I
remember reading that like, six times in a row, going through the page. It
just opened a whole world for you and there were many things that I missed.
After that, I read it twice.
When I knew the movie
was going to happen, I felt like I had to talk to the director and tell him
I had a big passion for this character. Also, as an actor, it's a challenge
to try to do somebody that goes from twenty years old to 75 because when you
do that you have to avoid act aged; you have to act like the character
aging, which is different.
That's a challenge,
especially when you're shooting scenes when you're twenty, then scenes when
you're 40 and then when you're 75 all in the same day. You have to change
years that fast. That's a challenge, and I wanted to go after that
Did you enjoy aging 50 years to play this part?
Not really. It takes a lot of time to be in the makeup further and [it] is
not the best place to be aged with prosthetics because it's like 95%
humidity. So we have to really make a big applause for the guy who did it,
because it was awful to put the pieces on. Then you're in the makeup trailer
and step out onto the street and the whole thing disappears. It was crazy.
Is this a story about undying love or obsession?
I don't know. I think it's a story of... It's the ultimate love story of a
person who really falls in love when he's fourteen years old and still, at
75, feels the same way as if he's seen her the day before. I mean; it's
fiction. It's a novel. It's not like it exists in the real world, but we all
want to think it exists. That's why we're always fighting for it.
You play a character that's had 622 lovers. What kind of advice would you
give to rock stars or movies stars even? What do you think was the secret to
[Laughs] I don't know. I have a problem with that because in the
novel he says well, I mean, when they first told me that I was going to
play the character I said, "Okay, how do I play this?" There's a moment
where Florentino says he's anxious which is fine. I'll do it. He's always
worried. I said, "Fine. I have little thoughts of my own." I'll always be
Also, that he's thin. Then I had a problem. I said, "Fuck. I have to lose
weight." But when they're saying, all these women, why they're so attracted
to him, the guy says that in the movie and in the book, he says, "Well, I
think that they see him as someone who's not going to harm them." You want
to play a character that goes with that gravitas. With the gravitas of
someone who has that weight, but a person who's left kind of a shadow with
no weight, like a ghost almost.
How are you with women?
Next question [Laughs].
Are you romantic with women?
How am I with women? I am the same way that I am with men. It's about how
you are and how you relate to people and how you consider yourself. I think
that the most difficult love begins with one's self. How you treat yourself
is something that you bring to your relationships.
How has your view of romance changed with age? As a teenager you might
have thought romance is about hot passion, and as an older person that
Yeah, but the funny thing, and the extraordinary thing in the book that will
hopefully be translated on the screen, is that he hasn't changed. He's the
same. I always saw him in such a way that when he sees her, he's
thunderstruck. He stays in the same place he was when he saw her for the
first time, even if the body says the opposite. He's like that. That was the
challenge in playing the role, trying to always protect that how do you
say it, innocence in a man that's 75 or 60 or 40 years old, as if he's a
How is it possible that no one ever became obsessed with your character
since women are traditionally much more romantic creatures than men.
In the book?
No, in the film.
There's no one. There's one, I guess, that gives her life.
Well, she's killed.
The girl at the end had a little bit of an obsession.
Exactly. Exactly. The younger one.
Can you comment on that?
It's amazing. It's one of the things that Gabriel Garcia Marquez always goes
back to, the relationship between the old man and young women. That story in
the book is amazing. In the movie it's brief, in my opinion, as everything
is because we can't really spend very much time with everything. Otherwise
it'd be a 10-hour-long movie.
But it's beautiful to see how he relates to the young lady with the same
innocence, as we were saying before, when he was fourteen years old. That's
why she sees him as someone who is trustful. He's someone that she can trust
because he's like a little child.
The fact that this
character feels true love for one woman, even after being with so many
others, is clear in the book. Do you think that translates to the screen?
I don't know. I think it's difficult because people see that, yeah, he says
that, but he does the opposite. Once again, the book is clearer, but there's
a line in the book that was in the movie and actually isn't in the movie
anymore, I think. He says, "I could have been unfaithful to her, but never
That's not something that you want to say in front of your wife because they
will kill you, but in the language of Florentino you would understand what
he means, which is... I mean, the book explains it very well. I think in the
movie though, he tries to find something, some meaning out of every woman
he's with. He tries to be close to her by these encounters.
Would you ever come
back and do this character again if there was more written if Marquez
wrote about the character in another book of his?
Oh, of course.
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