Javier Ángel Encinas Bardem is a Spanish actor known for his dark and intense characters, as well as making history. As the first Spanish actor to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2007′s No Country for Old Men, Bardem has rightfully earned his now household name in Hollywood. With his recent acceptance of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it’s safe to say that at just 43 years old Javier will continue to break boundaries in both American and Spanish cinema.
Raised by his mother, actress Pilar Bardem, along with siblings Carlos and Monica, Javier was born in the Spanish Canary Islands. He comes from a long line of Spanish filmmakers and actors which includes his uncle, screenwriter and director Juan Antonio Bardem, who passed away in 2002. Despite his theater roots, Javier expressed other interests as a young boy. He played rugby and enjoyed painting, eventually studying at Madrid’s Escuela de Artes y Oficios.
In order to make ends meet, Javier had to take several odd jobs, including acting and (for only one day he claims) stripping! After deciding he wasn’t a very talented painter, he continued to test the waters on acting.
Javier took his first major picture role at just 20 years old on Spanish film, The Ages of Lulu, as a corrupt gay man. His next role was in Spanish comedy Jamon Jamon which would, ironically, star his future wife, Penelope Cruz. The film won the Silver Lion at the 1992 Venice Film Festival and helped him gain notice with filmmakers in the United States.
Director/producer John Malkovich was one of the first to approach Bardem for an English speaking role, but at the time Javier felt his English wasn’t strong enough and turned it down in 1997. However, Javier’s first English speaking role would be the same year – in a film called Perdita Durango. Javier’s commitment to several films in his native Spain gained him the recognition he needed to get cast in bigger, American made films. And that’s just what he did.
In 2000, Bardem starred in Before Night Falls, based off the autobiography of the same name, as title character Cuban Poet Reinaldo Arenas. This role really began to show the methodical ways in which Bardem would intensely prepare for his roles of characters so unlike himself. In order to portray the openly gay AIDS afflicted writer, Javier needed to get in the mindset of a linguistic artist.
In an interview with The Guardian, Javier explains, “When I was reading Reinaldo’s work I didn’t understand why someone might need to write. What is he looking for when he writes? Who is he writing to? To himself, to God, to the audience? What’s he trying to do? I started writing poems and letters every day, telling him my experience, asking him for help. When I’m writing in the movie, I’m writing to him.”
After it’s premiere at the 2000 Venice Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival Javier turned several heads, including gaining praise from Al Pacino who left a message praising Bardem on his answering machine! Javier also received an Academy Award nomination, the first for a Spanish actor.
Finally working with John Malkovich in his directorial debut in 2002, Javier starred in The Dancer Upstairs. The film took so long to obtain financing that Bardem was able to perfect his English even more, gaining him the lead role, for which he wasn’t originally intended.
In 2004, Bardem starred in another film which premiered at the Venice Film Festival, The Sea Inside (Mar Adentro in Spanish), portraying the real life story of Ramon Sampedro who was a quadriplegic in support of euthanasia. The film received countless awards, including an Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film as well as several Best Actor nods for Javier.
Making his first Hollywood film appearance as a small role in 2004′s Collateral, Javier’s English was perfected. He also starred in the Spanish/American film Goya’s Ghosts alongside Natalie Portman, and has continued to teeter between Spanish and American films throughout his career.
Of course, Spanish films are widely unnoticed by the typical American movie goer and it’s Javier’s strong performances in bigger Hollywood hits that have propelled him into super-stardom In 2007, Bardem starred in Love in the Time of Cholera which is based off the novel by the same name. This film was largely overlooked as Bardem’s other 2007 starring role took all the glory.
Written and directed by the Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan, No Country for Old Men is largely considered the best movie of 2007, taking the #1 spot for many notable film critics. Based off the novel by the same name, the film was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and took home 4. Mostly notably was Javier Bardem’s win for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, making him the very first Spanish actor to take home an Oscar. Bardem’s portrayal of hit man Anton Chigurh was one of the scariest characters we’ve seen since Anthony Hopkin’s Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.
In an interview with Collider, Bardem explains how he came up with his character on the spot. When asked if he had determined a back story for Chigurh, he said, “None. No, that’s the point. I didn’t think it was necessary to do any back story for the guy since I see it as an accident. I see it as a logical, violent reaction to the violent action that some characters in this movie does. Like, I’m an accident out there and a kind of an icon. A violent icon that represents a violent fate that you have called by your actions.” And it’s obvious his spontaneity paid off.
Also in 2007, Bardem was named #73 in the top 100 Sexiest Stars in Film History by Empire Magazine and in his case, talent is definitely sexy. He was also named #26 in Entertainment Weekly’s “50 Most Vile Villains in Film History” in 2008. Since his creative and winning performance in No Country for Old Men, Javier has kept busy taking on a multitude of unique roles. He’s expressed an artistic desire to go for characters that are challenging and different, and has been compared to the ranks of Hollywood greats like Jack Nicholson, Robert de Niro, and Al Pacino.
Bardem starred in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona in 2008 and returned to Spanish language films with 2010′s Biutiful. Most recently, Bardem stars in the 23rd installment of the James Bond franchise in Sam Mendes‘ Skyfall, as super villain Raoul Silva. Banking almost $1 billion worldwide so far, it’ll be interesting to see what nominations and wins the film will continue to add to it’s repertoire in the upcoming movie award season.
Currently in post-production is the Ridley Scott directed thriller, The Counselor, featuring an all-star cast alongside Javier including Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, and John Leguizamo. Bardem married longtime girlfriend Penelope Cruz in 2010, with their first child born in January 2011. Javier is also a proponent of same-sex marriage and claims himself as an atheist.
Javier Bardem is obviously one incredible actor who not only prepares for his roles prior to shooting, but gives enough impromptu acting to give his characters credibility. Although he had originally wanted to be a painter, we couldn’t be more thankful that he really wasn’t very good at it. It seems Javier will continue to serve in both Spanish and American films, as he’s not fluent in both languages, which gives him more opportunity to portray characters and allows us more opportunity to see him on the big screen. Javier Bardem may not be your typical Hollywood actor, but with his dark and mysterious villains he’s certainly one you’ll love to hate.
‘No Country for Old Men’ Trailer
Interview with Javier Bardem
- The Counselor (post-production)
- 2013 Alacrán enamorado (post-production)
- 2012 Skyfall
- 2012 To the Wonder
- 2010 Eat Pray Love
- 2010 Biutiful
- 2008 Vicky Cristina Barcelona
- 2007 Love in the Time of Cholera
- 2007 No Country for Old Men
- 2006 Goya’s Ghosts
- 2004 The Sea Inside
- 2004 Collateral
- 2002 Mondays in the Sun
- 2002 The Dancer Upstairs
- 2001 Don’t Tempt Me
- 2000 Before Night Falls
- 1999 Segunda piel
- 1999 Los lobos de Washington
- 1999 Between Your Legs
- 1998 Torrente, el brazo tonto de la ley
- 1997 Perdita Durango
- 1997 Live Flesh
- 1997 Airbag
- 1996 Love Can Seriously Damage Your Health
- 1996 Not Love, Just Frenzy
- 1996 Éxtasis
- 1996 Mambrú
- 1995 Boca a boca
- 1995 La madre (short)
- 1994 La teta y la luna
- 1994 Días contados
- 1994 El detective y la muerte
- 1994 Pronòstic reservat (short)
- 1993 Huevos de oro
- 1993 Huidos
- 1993 El amante bilingüe
- 1992 Jamon Jamon
- 1992 Amo tu cama rica
- 1991 High Heels
- 1990 The Ages of Lulu