In the newest ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ film, Javier Bardem lets his hair do the talking
Over the 30 years that Spanish actor Javier Bardem has been regularly working in television and film, he’s shown an amazing range, hitting perfect notes as romantic leads, tough heroes, free-spirited seducers, physically challenged victims, you name it. But there’s always been something special about his portrayal of villains. It’s clear that he relishes playing them, and pushing them over the top. Most recently he was the sadistic Silva in the Bond film “Skyfall.” A few years before that he gave us the inhuman, dead-eyed Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men,” for which he nabbed a Supporting Actor Oscar.
In “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell no Tales,” he’s Salazar, the monstrous ghost captain who lords over a lifeless and rotting crew of pirates, and is determined, for very personal reasons, to rid the world of other pirates, one of them, naturally, Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow. But it’s not just his deeds that make Salazar stand out; it’s also his look: Especially his decaying face and an eerily flowing mop of long dark hair that takes on a character of its own. His real-life wife Penelope Cruz played a pirate in the franchise’s previous entry, “On Stranger Tides.”
Bardem, 48, sporting a friendly smile and a big laugh, spoke about the film earlier this week in Los Angeles.
Q: So, was it your turn to play a pirate after Penelope?
A: When she did it back in 2010, I was visiting the set and I was amazed by the whole thing. I remember telling (producer) Jerry Bruckheimer that I would love to be part of it. And he called me 5 years later.
Q: When you were growing up in Madrid, were you a fan of pirate movies?
A: Of course, when I was a kid I pretended I was a pirate. And I played space ships from “Star Wars.” Not Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker. I was the space ship (laughs). That’s part of something you remind yourself about when you do a movie like this. Like on any other movie set, you work really hard, there are long hours, but you have to have fun. Because otherwise, what’s the point? Of course it’s a good paycheck, it’s a good role, it’s a good company. But beyond that, if you don’t have fun doing something like this, people will notice.
Q: Your Captain Salazar is a very complicated character, something that’s brought out in flashbacks of him as a younger man.
A: It’s the idea of one person being seen from two different angles. One is the proud, strong, Spanish captain at a time when pride and honor were very important. Even more important than eating and drinking was being respected. That is what I brought. But what would happen if that person is betrayed by what he hates the most? What about the rage that would bring to him? We all worked around that idea of rage and pain. But at the same time, we knew were making a family movie. This is not “No Country for Old Men,” which is raw and dry. This is a different movie.
Q: Salazar is one scary looking guy, and his hair is really weird. What was your initial reaction when you saw what he looked like?
A: I knew what the makeup would look like, because I had it on. But I didn’t know what character the hair would play, and it does play a character. It softens my movement a little. I think there’s a great combination between the gravitas and the pain of the character, with the hypnotism of the hair. It’s a nice combination between earth and water, between heaven and hell.
Q: You obviously spent a long time in the makeup chair. What do you do when you have to go through that experience?
A: It was a 3-hour process. But I’ve been taught to be patient. I did a movie called “The Sea Inside,” where I had to stay still for makeup for 5-6 hours every day. That was a good baptism for something like this. When I know I’ll be going through a process of makeup, I’ll record all my notes so I can hear the script and the notes, but then I go through many different states: You curse, and you say you don’t want to do this anymore, then you leave and then you come back. Then they put a hair dryer on your face. Many things.
Q: How have you chosen your roles in the past?
A: When you are younger and want to have a career, you have a lot of ambition, and you do what you can. I am a very lucky person who has had the gift of working with great people, and I have been very blessed having the chance to make a living doing this. So, in this moment, what helps me to choose a role is the reason behind the character, the reason behind the movie, and that the movie will entertain people. There are many movies that are supposed to entertain, but can be boring. This is not one of those. That was a very important reason why I did this.
-- Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now.