Hollywood had Antonio Banderas. There’s also Jordi Mollà, Óscar Jaenada, or Pau Masó, who are worthy replacements. But there’s no denying that Javier Bardem currently leads the pack of Hispanic actors who are captivating Hollywood the way Banderas did.
Javier Bardem isn’t just a one-hit-wonder who happened to be married to Penélope Cruz. He has had several successes in Spain, and his expanding Hollywood portfolio tells us he is already bankable.
Before Night Falls (2000)
While Jamón, Jamón was his breakout film, it was Alex de la Iglesia’s Perdita Durango that made him noticeable among U.S. auteurs. Julian Schnabel was one of them; he was looking for a Spanish-speaking actor for the part of Cuban poet and novelist Renaldo Arenas. Bardem’s enigmatic portrayal of Arenas won him three Best Actor awards, including one from the prestigious Venice International Film Festival.
To prepare for the role, Bardem revealed that he spent nearly two months in New York with Arenas’ lover and best friend, Lazaro Gomez Carriles. There he listened to numerous recordings of Arenas, walked the streets of New York, and read the poet’s books. This brilliant movie showed Bardem’s full potential as an actor; he isn’t only a poet but also a dying activist, exiled writer, commentator, and, yes, a swimmer. He also worked with Johnny Depp, who played a handsome Castro-loyal lieutenant and a prison drag queen.
Love in the Time of Cholera (2007)
Magic realism, horror, thriller, and drama seem to be a familiar place for Javier Bardem. In 2007, he played the adult Florentino Ariza in the film adaptation of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Bardem’s acting was subtle yet masterful, a feat that earned him an Academy Award a year after the worldwide theatrical release. In an interview with the Telegraph, he said that it changed not only his acting method but also his life.
Eat, Pray, Love (2010)
Bardem again gained recognition when he appeared in the last part of the movie, which stars America’s sweetheart Julia Roberts. The role was such a different turn from his usual work, especially after a series of psychological, peculiar films such as No Country For Old Men. He won not only an Oscar but also the “World’s Worst Haircut in Film” for the film. This movie also put him briefly on various gossip columns due to rumors of an affair with Roberts. Everyone knew that it was all for publicity, though.
Bardem plays the enemy once again to no less than James Bond. He trumped the likes of Christoph Waltz, another actor who joined 007 later, for the title of Best Bond Villain.
Strangely, this film was also responsible for showing the audience Bardem’s comical side as he admitted in various interviews. That’s because he’s a total amateur when it comes to guns and computers. He said that every shot in Skyfall in which he is shown using a computer is definitely fake, as he “can’t even send an email.” Indeed, possible endorsements from the likes of AT&T or 5BARz International, Inc. (OTC: BARZ) might not be in his future, but there’s no denying that this film has catapulted him to the A-list, where the roster of actors include Marlon Brando and Al Pacino.
Truly, it’s hard to name a film where Javier Bardem is close to being mediocre. He has played a wide range of characters: from a psychopath to a Casanova. Here’s hoping there might be more for him and us in the future.
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