The work and achievements of Spanish actor Javier Bardem were celebrated on Monday, January 28, at the 23rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The fifth day of the festival concluded with the Montecito Award ceremony, where festival attendees were able to witness an in-depth interview between Bardem and Festival Executive Director Roger Durling.
Bardem has been highly recognized in the past year for his work in the Coen Brothers’ film No Country For Old Men. He was recently given an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor for the role of Anton Chigurh. Earlier this week, he also received the Screen Actors Guild Award for the same category, a high indication that he will take the Oscar.
“In my opinion, the defining performance of the last year is Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men,” said Durling during his introduction. “No other performance this year stays with you, haunts you, and gives you nightmares the way this character does.” Bardem’s portrayal of this character has been described as similar to Silence of the Lamb’s Hannibal Lecter, but scarier.
Bardem took the stage and commented on how overwhelming it felt to be in the presence of so many people who were there to see him. When asked how it felt to receive all this attention, he answerecd, “It feels weird.” The crowd laughed in appreciation of his honest answer.
Bardem said acting is one way he celebrates his roots since he comes from a family of actors. “My grandparents were actors in a time where actors were not allowed to be buried on sacred land because they were considered homosexuals and prostitutes. So it has been a long way to come here. I guess it’s not about me, but what I carry on my back, their effort, their trust, their sacrifice, their knowledge of what the real meaning of all of this [acting] is.”
Immediately after this response, Bardem reminded the audience that he does not speak English. “You were acting like ‘oh, that was fine’, but that was amazing.” He charmed the audience with his playful sense of humor.
Bardem later discussed his techniques of method acting. Bardem uses simple elements, such as his haircut in No Country, to further understand his character. He even used his experience as a foreigner to help develop the character of Anton Chigurh. “I was the only foreigner in a strange landscape, in a strange movie where everyone was American. And you feel a little bit lonely there. That was the same with Chigurh, a guy who doesn’t belong to anything or anybody.”
Bardem also told a story to explain the differences between Spanish and American cinema. “Once, I wanted some water so I asked, ‘Can I have some water?’ and a man was there on his microphone saying ‘bring some water. They were talking to each other forever and I could hear them in the microphones saying ‘he wants water, he needs water’, but no one actually brought the water. So I stood up and got the bottle myself.’ He described how everyone looked at him in shock because he stood up to get his own water. “That’s the difference.”
As a Spanish actor, Bardem holds the family values common to Spaniards. He recalled that the day he told his mother he wanted to become an actor, she reminded him he would have to do his best since it wouldn’t just be about him, but about the surname Bardem that he carries.
“That is something I always have to take with me” the intergrity, the hardwork, the need of really achieving difficult goals… pride is what is important.”
One goal Bardem said he wishes to achieve is to help create awareness by selecting roles with social or political undertones. “Movies won’t solve the world and won’t give us clues about the meaning of life, but good movies can raise absolute questions for us to be answer… and those are the [films] that I want to be a part of.”