Forget Anton Chigurh for a moment, the memorable villain of “No Country for Old Men” that gave him an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Actor in 2008 and that, for most Anglo-Saxons, is his best-known role. till the date.
Starting this Friday, Javier Bardem can be seen in select US theaters -including LA’s Laemmle Royal- in the skin of a character very different from the murderous psychopath created by the Coen brothers and much more closely related to a line of comedy that is not completely foreign to the same public (Aaron Sorkin’s “Being The Ricardos” was a bit on that side, and years ago, Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” saw him fully dedicated to a fun role), but it turns out much closer to the Spanish and Spanish-speaking audience that has been able to enjoy it in titles from the beginning of his career such as “Jamón, Jamón”, “Huevos de oro” and “Boca a boca”.
The opportunity to return to charismatic and attractive characters, but not for that reason of irreproachable morals, reaches the hands of Penelope Cruz’s husband thanks to “The good boss” (titled “The Good Boss” in English), his third collaboration with the director and screenwriter Fernando León de Aranoa after “Mondays in the Sun” and “Loving Pablo”; and that was what the acclaimed interpreter from the Canary Islands spoke to us about during a Zoom interview that connected us with Budapest -where he is filming the second part of “Dune”- and that you can also find here in video format .
In addition to offering details of the new film, which has been preceded by excellent reviews, the son of the legendary actress and activist Pilar Bardem revealed some interesting aspects of Denis Villeneuve’s new blockbuster and spoke of other issues related to both the criticism received by those who interpret real-life characters without having a correspondence of nationality with them -which has happened with our interviewee on more than one occasion- as well as the simultaneous support and rejection generated by their frequent declarations of a political nature, completely opposed to the conservative opinions.
Javier, how is “Dune” going?
We have started relatively recently, and it is going very well, because it is a film that has many good things. Dennis’s work [Villeneuve], the director, is huge, and he handles it beautifully. He is a great collaborator, a great guy. My character now has an important presence, as he does in the second part of the book. [de Frank Herbert]and filming runs until December.
Well, we are connected to talk about “The good boss”, a film that is finally released in the United States, which received six Goya awards and that does not take us to another planet, but rather gives a very particular look at a very earthly matter. : that of the abuses and corruption that occur in companies of the capitalist system. He does it in a very particular way, with discretion and comedy.
Ferdinand [León de Aranoa] he is a great writer, who handles a lot of social criticism; but, in this case, he also dares with humor, sarcasm, irony and cynicism. That is a bit part of the profile of the character I play, Julio Blanco, a very recognizable guy, certainly in Spain and, in fact, anywhere in the world, because he is the man left over from himself who was born in a comfortable cradle, who has not done much to earn the place he occupies and who has a way of working and approaching the other from a nearby place, very folksy, from where deception, outrage, lies, manipulation and corruption take place.
Cases like these abound in my country, starting with that of the King Emeritus of Spain [Juan Carlos I], who has stolen I don’t know how many millions of euros from public finances and is still there, without explanation. He was also a very applauded and much celebrated guy by a segment of society that did not want to see the other party, that is, the one that steals, the one that cheats and the one that does hidden business to get rich.
Did you draw inspiration from him in any way?
It is not that you are inspired by someone in particular, but by a kind of energy that is present at some point in a guy like him, in a guy who can preside over a football club or even in a person I know who runs a tiny bar. , but which also has something of a pattern in its relationship with the worker. Nor do you have to be a big businessman to abuse the rights of others. In this case, my character is a big businessman in a provincial town; We are not talking about Amazon or Telefónica.
If one sees Blanco with the look one should see him with, one discovers that he is a villain; but there are a lot of people who would justify most of the things he does, and in that sense, the film frequently plays a fine line, because, at least initially, the character seems to completely refuse to do anything that is illegal, it turns out Very likeable, he assumes an intellectual air – he quotes the physicist Werner Heisenberg, whose surname was taken by the protagonist of “Breaking Bad” – and exhibits great patience. But already from there there are subtle details – how he treats women and certain images that could refer to an abuse of animals by him – that have to be carefully appreciated to begin to realize where things are going. .
Fernando really put a lot of elements into play and combined them in a very rich way, very attractive, very interesting to watch and very funny. It is true that there are things that are excused for the character, things that are understood and things that lead you to throw your hands on your head. That makes it more human, more accessible and more real; Obviously, not all entrepreneurs are like him, but there are some who are, as are many of the people who have a modicum of power.
Even I, who am not an entrepreneur, can use power from my professional place; about people who are on a shoot, for example. We all have the possibility of dealing with the other from one place or another that has to do with respect for their rights and their needs. Julio Blanco does not realize that and passes over [de todos]because it seeks personal excellence, not group excellence.
“Power corrupts” is a well-known phrase, and that is why people are so suspicious of politicians. But to think that everyone who has some power is bad is an impossible way of looking at life. As you have said, you have power; You are the only Spanish actor who has won an Oscar, and when you say something, people listen to you and react. Those on the right for bad, those on the left for good. According to your morals and your convictions, what keeps some from being corrupted by power or using it abusively?
Having a theory that encompasses everything is very difficult, but I believe that power, in general and in any form, isolates the one who suffers from it or the one who enjoys it, because when it exists, it protects you from others, and that protection protects you. takes you to a place of isolation. And the moment you isolate yourself, you lose contact with a certain type of reality that is important to know, because if not, you are excluded from things that are important for the conception of ideas, theories, attitudes and actions towards others, be a footballer, an actor or a politician. That’s where the problem of being alone and sometimes ill-advised begins.
And then comes the nature of each one, what do you want to do with that power. In my case, as much as possible, I try not to lose my sense of reality, treading the streets as much as possible, knowing my limitations and, above all, trying to ensure that my children – who were born in a very different environment from the environment in which I was born – have a sense of perspective that I already have, because I was raised that way by my mother.
But I think that in the end it all comes down to something very simple: you are either a good person or you are not a good person; either you have a sense of empathy or you don’t. There are people who do not have it, and who instead have the ability to separate themselves from the suffering of others.
“The good boss” has dramatic elements, but it is a comedy. You won an Oscar for playing an incredibly sinister character in “No Country for Old Men,” and you’ve had other roles that lean heavily on the serious side, like “Biutiful.” But you have also been in other films inclined towards the fun and funny, such as “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Huevos de Oro”, the Spanish film by Bigas Luna whose star character, Benito González -which you were in charge of-, does not let to remind me of Julio Blanco.
Of course, that was the investigation of this kind of character in the ’90s, a time when subjects like this flourished in my country: the great entrepreneurs who have made themselves, who build buildings and who have to do with erection , the force and the male. It is something that is still present, but in those years, it was highly applauded in Spain. Now, the character already has gray hair, wears glasses and tries to hide his true intentions; but there is something of Benito González in this Julio Blanco, who is part of a generation that has been wrongly educated and that believes it is much more important than it is.
How interesting is it for you to be able to play such different roles?
I just did a kid comedy with a crocodile [risas]. I feel happy and very grateful to life, to destiny and to chance for the possibility I have of doing such different jobs: a children’s comedy, a comedy with social overtones, a space movie with a sense of actuality that is unfortunately enormous in relation to to the climate issue. My character in “Dune” represents all of that, the fight for change on a devastated planet that is nothing more than sand. Being present in such disparate projects is a pleasure and a privilege.
And you are also interested in playing characters from different backgrounds, despite the fact that there are many people who do not like the idea of seeing a Spaniard playing Cuban or Colombian, as you did in “Being the Ricardos”, where you played Desi Arnaz, and “Pablo”, where you put yourself in the shoes of Pablo Escobar.
I absolutely agree that the nationality, gender and sexual identity of the character to be played be respected, and that actors and actresses close to them be sought. It is something that I support and that I supported with Desi, because I know that they were looking for [al actor que lo interpretara] and I got out of the way. Now, when the director or the producer decides that the best actress or actress to tell the story is this or that one, regardless of their sexual orientation or their nationality, that becomes a right for the actor and the actress, because our work it is to create a life that does not exist, that is not ours. That’s part of the magic of acting, and I’m as much for one thing as the other.