November 16, 2007

Javier Bardem’s one-two punch with ‘Country,’ ‘Cholera’

By Kiko Martinez

From a Cuban poet and novelist to a passionate quadriplegic to a sadistic crime boss, Spanish actor Javier Bardem has taken on some challenging roles.

He now stars in two films – “Love in the Time of Cholera” and “No Country for Old Men” – both of which hit theaters this month.

Spanish actor Javier Bardem.

Born Javier Ángel Encinas Bardem in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, the 38-year-old actor made a name for himself in Spain’s film industry starting at the young age of 21. His first film was 1990’s “La Edades de Lulú,” directed by Bigas Luna. Bardem went on to star in over 20 Spanish films in only nine years.

Bardem broke into Hollywood with his first English-language film “Before Night Falls” in 2000. In the film, he plays Cuban poet and novelist, Reinaldo Arenas. The role garnered Bardem his first-ever Academy Award nomination that year as Best Lead Actor. This marked the first time in Oscar history that a Spanish actor was nominated for the award.

Solidifying his career in the industry with roles in “The Dancer Upstairs,” “Collateral,” and “Mar adentro,” Bardem’s stock is as high as it has ever been in his 17 year career.

It’s no wonder than that this year, he stars in two much-anticipated films, both based off of popular novels. In “Love in the Time of Cholera,” adapted from Gabriel García Márquez 1985 written work, Bardem plays Florentino Ariza, a lovesick man who waits over 50 years to be with the only woman he has ever loved. According to, Bardem beat out actor Johnny Depp for the starring role.

“I think [“Love in the Time of Cholera”] is the ultimate love story of a person who really falls in love when he’s 14 years old, and still, when he’s 75, feels the same way, as if he had seen her the day before,” Bardem told Parade Magazine last week. “It’s fiction. It’s a novel. I don’t know if that exists in the real world, but we all want to think that it exists. That’s what we are always fighting for.”

If that wasn’t impressive enough, Bardem’s second film this year, “No Country for Old Men,” based on the Cormac McCarthy novel, is already receiving Oscar buzz not only for Best Picture of the Year, but for Bardem’s role. In the film, which is directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (“Fargo”), Bardem plays Anton Chigurh, a psychopathic murderer who is hunting down the person that has taken $2 from him.

Bardem said getting the opportunity to work with the Coen Brothers, something that would be “hard to imagine” for any Spanish actor, was one of the main reasons he took the role.

“My agent…asked me that famous question, ‘Who would you like to work with?” Bardem said at this year’s New York Film Festival. “I said, ‘The Coen Brothers.’ He said, ‘No, that’s impossible.’ When the possibility took place [to work with them], I was honored. I flew in to talk with them and they convinced me [to take the role]. It took like one second.”

Next for Bardem is the film “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” written and directed by Woody Allen (“Match Point”). He is also set to star as Colombian drug cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar in the film “Killing Pablo,” slated for a 2009 release.

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