Javier Bardem

“Failing your metamorphoses as well as possible”

On the occasion of the Nantes Spanish film festival,
Somewhere\Else attended Javier Bardem’s press conference and Masterclass
during which he reviewed his career and talked about his upcoming film,
Dune directed by Denis Villeneuve.

By Garance Lunven

Reading time 5 min.

Welcomed with great pomp at Nantes’ Graslin Opera in April, the Spanish actor asks the general directors to turn the light on in the room, “in order to see his audience”. Joyfully, Javier Bardem keeps making jokes and imitations to answer to the audience’s questions and his friend José Luis Rebordinos’ questions, San Sebastian Festival’s director. He will renew the experience twice, and these long interviews are worth an article.

Soon to be released,
Denis Villeneuve’s remake

Javier Bardem made his first steps in front of the camera when he was 6, ecouraged by his mother Pilar. In the Bardem family, cinema is a family affair. From his mother to his grand-parents, passing through his brother Carlos and his sister Mónica, being actor is a legacy… which has not always been so easy to carry. “My mother was an actress living alone” he confessed.

“She raised her three children in Francoist Spain and she had to play in order to put food on the table. But she also learnt me that cinema is a way to campaign, to relate life. It’s not just a random job you make, but a job you live and suffer for”.

Quickly, the actor was noticed by famous Spanish director, including Bigas Luna, who gives him roles in The Ages of Lulu (1990), Ham, Ham (1992) and then Macho (1993). “I owe him my career” starts Javier, “and also my wife Penélope Cruz, whom I met on Ham, Ham set». The actor thinks these erotic and provocative films would be forbidden in the current context: “It’s crazy how these days people keep a close eye on artists”.

Thanks to these collaborations with many Spanish directors, Javier wanted to become ambassador of his culture and defender of his language. “To me, dubbing a movie is a crime, he claims. It’s as if we dubbed Bob Dylan’s voice, it makes no sense!”.

He also points out the obstacles with which Spanish cinema has to tackle. “In Spain, there’s clearly a lack of interest coming from institutions and from a part of the audience” the actor explains. “We make good and bad films, but we tend to show mostly the bad ones…”. As if he wanted to confess something, he leans forward and admits: “In truth, we are very jealous of French cinema in Spain”. A few names here and there reveals his admiration: Chabrol, Belmondo, Les Amants du Pont-Neuf… and Olivier Assayas (Sils Maria, Based on a True Story), with which he would like to work.

But it’s mostly overseas that Javier Bardem is famous. In Skyfall, No country for old men, and Loving Pablo, he’s used to roles of psychopaths and villains. “Metamorphosis is an essential part of my work”, he reveals. “It’s every actor’s dream, but no one can do it completely, because you can’t erase yourself in your work”.

A reflexion that echoes his new role in the adaptation of the sci-fi saga Dune directed by Denis Villeneuve. He will interprete Stilgar, leader of the Fremen’s tribe, surviving on Dune’s planet. Activist for Greenpeace and MSF, Javier can’t help himself- he makes an environmental interpretation out of this story. “To me, the film relates what happens when humans don’t take care of the Earth and exacerbate social inequalities”.

On a lighter note, he also related his disastrous meeting with Robert de Niro or the episode of the fart machine to trap Johnny Depp. He ended up confessing, with a lopsided smile, that the role of his dreams has always been the one of the « Chicabond » (James Bond’s girlfriend) « that I somehow played in Skyfall where Sam Mendes dyed my hair blonde… »

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