Javier Bardem's roles have run the gamut from cold-blooded hitman in No Country For Old Men to concerned family friend who receives he shock of his life in Everybody Knows, but one thing that hasn't changed is his desire to work with people who inspire him. The Oscar-winning actor talks about why director Asghar Fahardi was one of those people and what moved him so much about the role of Paco in the Spanish thriller.
Screen Rant: I watched Everybody Knows last week and I loved it. I thought it was really well done film, and both and Penelope gave excellent. Congratulations.
Javier Bardem: Thank you.
Screen Rant: You've mentioned that A Separation was your introduction to Asghar as a filmmaker. What spoke to you about that film and what made you want to work with him after you watched it?
Javier Bardem: Well, I went to see the movie because Penelope had seen it before and she wanted to introduce me to do this director's work. And I was like, 'Okay, I'll go. Of course. If you like it, it will be interesting.' I sat down and I remember having one of the most enriching - creatively speaking as an audience and inspiring as an actor myself - experiences that I have ever had in a movie theater. Like, 'What have I seen right now? What is this? What are those actors; where are they coming from? What are those scenes, those texts, those dialogues, that movie? Who is the director?'
And then it happened that a month later, destiny put us together in Los Angeles, which is a very funny place to put both of us together because he was promoting A Separation and I was promoting something else. We sat down to share a cup of tea, and I was like, 'I can't believe that I'm talking to you when a month ago I saw A Separation, and I'm still... There's no one day I don't think about that. About the quality of those performances. So what are we doing here? Don't tell me there's a slight chance that we can work together.' And he said, 'Well, I'm thinking about making a movie in Spain, in Spanish. And then my heart beat, like, 'Please! Hire me.'
He happens to be one of the best directors. He happens to be funny, caring, very intelligent, sensitive, beautiful man. What a luxury. I have a great life. I have a blessed life because I have a job that I can provide for my family with. A job that I love. And not only that, I have the chance to meet people that I truly admire and work with them. That's pretty extraordinary, and this is one of the cases for sure.
Screen Rant: That's wonderful. It sounds like you and Penelope were not only on board from that first conversation but also more involved in the development of the story than usual. What was that process like, of being immersed with the director long before you even start to film?
Javier Bardem: I love it. I mean, it's one of the things that he talked to me and Penelope about like it could be a problem. Like, 'Well, you should know that I like to rehearse, that I like to talk previously with the actors and prepare and construct, to build up from the rehearsals.' And he looked at that as a kind of worry, but I remember both of us looking at each other like, 'Yes!' And then he came to Spain a whole year before shooting to get in touch with the culture he was going to portray. We spent a lot of time together and we worked together as much as he wanted and as we could. He would send us treatments, ideas back and forth. He always wanted to make what he made, he knew this story. But the presence of rehearsals one month before shooting with all the actors that made themselves available for that.? It was beautiful. He comes from theater and you can tell that's what he does. He loves it. And for me it was, again, a luxury. Because you've seen his movies, and you know he really cares and he really knows about performances. So if something [in rehearsal] happens by accident, and it turns out to be a good accident, he is going to be able to read it and put it there.
Screen Rant: And how did that theatrical approach and extra time with the script help you connect with Paco and find the truth of your character?
Javier Bardem: Well, I think one of the greatest things Asghar has in his stories is that he creates these very complex situations, where some might call it melodrama, some call it soap opera, and I call it life. Because if you look around, you won't stop seeing melodrama and soap opera all around you, within your house. I mean, it's all around us. We create the melodrama. But he brings that to an exquisite place of truth, where we understand that we create that melodrama, we create that soap opera by knowing, denying, rejecting what we are and what we feel, what we don't want to say, how we treat each other. So I think his work is always tinted by what is real and what is not, what is faith and what is not. What is exposed by others or by yourself. and what is hidden. The pain and the burden of human feelings, thoughts, and words. And that is a very complex thing, but at the same time, these are very normal day-by-day characters that cannot be seen as somebody special at all. They're one of us. So that combination of the deepness, the depth of the feelings you have to explore on the surface of someone who seems very common, I love it. It's very much what he does in his movies, and that's why we can really understand all of his characters. Because we feel for them; we are them.
Screen Rant: I love that. You certainly managed to get to the heart of Paco in Everybody Knows, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing you in Dune now that it's been announced.
Javier Bardem: Me too! I cannot wait. Oh my God. Denis Villeneuve. A director that I - again, as I said before, what a luxury to be able to work with someone that I like so much. I happened to meet him a couple of times and he's, again, a very nice, funny and clever man. What a luxury, what a grace. I mean, the only thing that I can do to deserve that is to work as hard as I can to earn it.
Everybody Knows is now playing in theaters.