Not since Anthony Hopkins first portrayed Hannibal Lector have I been so completely mesmerized by a screen villain. But that’s what happened when I watched Javier Bardem play Anton Chigurh in the new Coen Brothers movie “No Country For Old Men.” His portrayal of a ruthless, cold blooded killer is without a doubt one of the finest performances I’ve seen in a long time, and one that’s sure to be remembered at next years Oscar's. While I obviously don’t know if he’ll win, I’m positive he’ll at least get a nomination.
And while I single out Javier, I don’t mean to say anything but kind words for both the film and the other performances. Although we’ve all come to expect great movies from the Coen Brothers, “No Country” is a whole other level of great.
The movie begins when Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds a pickup truck filled with heroin and two million dollars in cash. The truck is surrounded by dead men. When Moss decides to take the money, he sets off a chain reaction of catastrophic violence that not even the law – in the person of aging, disillusioned Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) – can contain. As Moss tries to evade his pursuers – in particular a mysterious mastermind who flips coins for human lives (Javier Bardem) – he can only hope to outrun the people chasing him.
So to help promote the movie, the other day I got to participate in a roundtable interview with Javier Bardem. During our conversation we talked about all the movies he has coming up as well as the normal questions that get covered. As always, you can either read the transcript below or download the MP3 of the interview by clicking here. And if you missed the clips from the movie, you can watch them here.
“No Country For Old Men” is currently playing in limited release and will be everywhere on November 21st.
Javier Bardem: Do you mind if I smoke?
Question: Do you terrify yourself after watching the movie?
Javier: Ah, no. Not at all. No. I mean I terrify myself because I thought I was wrong, but not because I was scary. I mean I find the need of performing for an actor is something that is obvious. The need of watching the performance that he does is not something that is not obvious at all. You have to deal with that, but you don’t want it really bad. But I don’t know any actor or actress that really likes to see themselves. So, I’m like that. I prefer not to see it.
Q: Your English is so much better. Have you been practicing over the last year or so?
Javier: When I start this? Well, for that I worked really hard on trying to get rid of my Spanish accent as much as I could, which is not easy. But it doesn’t belong to anyone special, but we didn’t want to have a hard Spanish accent, so we tried to neutralize the accent as much as we could.
Q: Did you come up with a back story for your character at all?
Javier: None. None. No, that’s the point. I didn’t think it was necessary to do any back story for the guy since I see it as an accident. I see it as a logical, violent reaction to the violent action that some characters in this movie does. Like, I’m an accident out there and a kind of an icon. A violent icon that represents a violent fate that you have called by your actions.
Q: The Coens were saying you were initially hesitant to the look they came up to for the character. What was your reaction to the photo they showed you?
Javier: From the haircut and all that? It’s funny, because I saw that photo and I didn’t pay attention to the haircut because it was more of the way he was dressed as well as anything, but I guess they pay attention to the haircut. (Laughs.) So, I went to the trailer and they cut it and I saw it and I said, ‘What the hell is that?’ But that helped a lot actually, because in a way he gave this reality to the character this dimension of being very methodical. Everything is in place. It’s kind of mathematical. Like perfectly structured which is the way I thought the character should be. Perfectly clean. I thought this could help, but not for my private life though. (Laughs.)
Q: Kelly mentioned that when you first did the readings you were very intense and scary, but once you started getting into you started to see more of the humor. Did you always see it that way?
Javier: I saw that there was some comedy in there, but I didn’t want to pay attention to that. Because if there is comedy, it would have to be of the Coens to put it together in order for it to be funny, but the character had to be really damn serious in order to be funny in case the Coens choose him to funny. Not for what he says or how he says it, but the reaction of the other people listening to him appear on screen which is what makes him funny. Also, being funny in a foreign language is not easy, because being funny, being a good comedian isn’t easy in any language. Because you have to have a lot of control with the language and know the pace, the rhythm, the ‘boom’ – how to put the line in the right place and in a foreign language it is almost impossible. You have to have a huge control of the language which I don’t.
Q6: You probably have more dialogue in the movie than Josh, but how did you come up with all the body language to convey all the violence that was going about?
JV: It’s funny, because there is something in this movie that has to do with the fact that we don’t interact with each other. So, I was there shooting one or two days a week. With that hair cut. I was going there killing people ‘boom, boom, boom, boom.’ Going back to the hotel to sleep. I didn’t know what movie we were doing. So, yes, sometimes they do a shot of you thinking or you going into the room, but you put it together, but you put it together because it’s like, ‘What is my role in this movie? What do I have to bring with me to tell the story?’ So, I wasn’t really conscious of how to do it. Rather than being loyal all the time of being a machine. A guy who is totally numb to other people’s feelings and even his own feelings. And with a beauty to make, no? But, I didn’t know how to perform somebody who is always on the chase. I didn’t know what they were doing. I didn’t know what kind of movie they were doing, because I was only one, two days a week.
Q: Was there ever a point where you’re like, ‘Now I get it. I’m like this…’?
Q: How do you get through a whole film feeling that way?
Javier: All the time man. I haven’t done any movie that I haven’t felt that way. I mean, I remember one moment in ‘The Sea Inside’ where I felt like ‘gluck.’ ‘Boom,’ my whole thing put itself in place and now I can…
Q: Do you feel like you have to be uncomfortable in a film?
Javier: Well, that’s part of your life actually. I learned something with Woody Allen now. Which is Woody Allen you have to really be present, because you are doing 5, 6 pages of long dialogue, improvised, one take – in a foreign language. So, you really have to be like, fuck it. Don’t think it, be. Just be and just go back to the roots of performing which is to be understood. To be understood by your colleague of what you are saying and what you mean with what you are saying. And that taught me that most of the time, we the actors are over thinking too much what we do and that’s what creates the uncomfortableness. Because if we just react, which comes along with act, then we will be able to free ourselves and go back to the roots of why we do this, which is to bring the feelings when we were kids and we were just playing with our friends and just acting and not thinking of what we were doing. But most of the time we are unable to do that, because as mature people, theoretically, we always judge every act we do. So, be uncomfortable it’s something that comes with that as we grow old. We are not comfortable, that’s why we are always searching for something. You want to be comfortable you have to go to the Tibet and pray for hours.
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