It didn’t take long for Hollywood to recognize the big-screen savvy of Javier Bardem. After being nominated in the best actor category for his role in Before Night Falls (2000), the 38-year-old Spanish actor has now won an Oscar, this time for his supporting role in the acclaimed thriller No Country for Old Men.
The film from Ethan & Joel Coen stays true to their directorial style – it’s dark, wonderfully odd and sprinkled with touches of black humor. The story begins when Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) discovers a truck surrounded by dead bodies and $2 million worth of drugs in the truck’s bed. When Moss runs off with the satchel of cash found near one of the bodies, he sets off a chain of gory violence that not even Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) can put a stop to. Throughout the film, Moss tries to take out everyone on his tail, including the mysterious Anton (Bardem), a cool-as-a-cucumber psychopath known for flipping a coin to decide whether or not he’ll kill those who get in his way.
Bardem took some time to talk with Peopleenespanol.com about the role that landed him a statue at the Academy Awards. Wearing jeans, a black shirt and a leather jacket, he gave us his take on the film, gun violence and the dark role he wasn’t so sure about at first.
What was the atmosphere like on the set when you were working on the movie?
Thanks to Josh Brolin it was really fun. He really helped me during the filming because I was doing a film in a language that’s not my own. I was the only foreigner. I was in an unfamiliar place and playing a character that’s nothing like me. So it was Josh who really helped me get out of that distant and alienated place I was in. He’s great – he’s a good friend and a great human being. He’s also really funny. He makes me laugh more than anyone. He’s a really brilliant and biting guy.
How did you find it in yourself to play such an angry character?
I honestly don’t know. I think that I’m playing the role of violence itself rather than playing another human being.
What’s the movie’s message?
I think that the film goes beyond what we see on the screen. The meaning varies depending on who’s watching it. But I think the message of the movie has to do with the lack of meaning when it comes to violence. There are people who think that violence and power are sometimes in equilibrium. But once a person resorts to violence, he destroys everything in his path, creates pain and misery, doesn’t fix anything, then leaves.
You’re not an actor who enjoys playing violent characters. Were you ever uncomfortable while working on the movie?
Yes, but I talked to the Coens about that. I hadn’t read the book, but when I read it after reading the script I understood the idea better. But still I wanted to know exactly what they wanted to do with the movie, because at the end of the day you carried a gun and killed people, and you could put certain strange ideas in people’s heads. I don’t like to see unjustified violence on the screen.
Do the Coen brothers share your vision when it comes to violence?
I think they have their own interpretation that doesn’t necessarily coincide with mine. But I think that everyone’s opinions are more or less in line. It’s incredible how violence dominates this culture. I’m not just criticizing because, yeah, for me as a Spaniard it’s very strange, I just don’t understand it. Why is someone able to go buy a pistol and later go to a school and use it?
Even though the movie is very serious and your character even more so, there are some really funny moments…
At times the book seemed funny to me, and at times the script did too, but my role and the scenes I did were never funny to me. That’s what so special about the Coen brothers. That’s what makes them so talented. I think the character turns out the way it does based on how they construct the movie. Not because of the actor playing the role.
The humor in the movie is another great thing about them. They never told us, ‘This scene is supposed to be funny.’ But it’s how they orchestrate it that it turns out so funny. And in a way, humor helps ease the tension and to distance yourself from what you see on the screen.