When it comes to Biutiful, the powerful story of Uxbal and the relationship between himself and his children, Academy Award winner Javier Bardem admits that this role deeply impacted him. “This is by far the heaviest role I have done in my life. I don’t think I’ll ever do something like this again,” says the 41-year-old Spanish actor. But on this day, in a room full of members of the media, it’s obvious by the look on his face that he is very proud of this film. While the role called for Bardem to use every acting skill he’s acquired throughout his life, the work speaks for itself.
Although Bardem knew how difficult his role as Uxbal would be, the script proved to be a challenge he was ready to conquer. “I had a very instinctive, emotional response to it,” he explains. “When you have this kind of material, you know you are going to jump into an ocean of doubts and fears, as well as expectations and joys.” During our discussion with the star, he delights us with a few lighthearted quips about Biutiful and working with the film’s director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. His playfulness may be due to the fact that Biutiful is not an easy film to watch, even more difficult to act in. When the project was complete, Bardem soon learned that he needed to let go of his character. “I don’t know if you can deal with the consequences of being in that state of mind for five months,” he says. “It’s a journey and that’s our job as actors, but our job is to also know how to get in and out of there. This was an explosion for me. But I am here. I am healthy and I can talk about it.”
Bardem has Inarritu to thank for the role, which he wrote with the actor in mind from the very beginning. “Since I first started writing Biutiful, I always thought of Javier Bardem for Uxbal,” says the respected filmmaker. “Nobody else could have brought to the character what he has brought. I could not have made this film without him because for me, he alone was Uxbal. For many years, Javier and I had been trying to work together. I thought this character will be the bridge that will get us together on set.”
Biutiful marks a return to Bardem’s roots. Before he was the first Spaniard to win an Oscar for his depiction as a sociopathic killer in No Country for Old Men, he made countless films in his native Spain. Since his American breakout hit, Bardem has appeared in several Hollywood films. But because of his independent background, or the fact that acting runs in his family, Bardem now picks projects out of love for them, not for the paycheck. “Usually the movies that you like are the ones that pay you nothing,” he remarks. “The ones you go crazy about they don’t pay you what you would like to be paid. But in general, I don’t care because I have a job. I have a good living. I can feed my people, I can feed myself. I have a good roof. That’s all I can ask for as a 41-year-old who has been seeing how many other people are going through it with difficulty. Doing what you like and getting paid for that is enough.”
Biutiful premieres on Friday, January 28.