From directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg and producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is the fifth installment in the hugely popular Pirates film franchise that blends fantasy, humor and action into a new tale involving Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). This time around, the down-on-his-luck captain is being pursued by the terrifying Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), who is hell-bent on killing Jack, and his only hope of survival is teaming up with a brilliant astronomer named Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) and a young sailor named Henry (Brenton Thwaites) to recover the legendary Trident of Poseidon.
At the film’s press day, Academy Award winner Javier Bardem spoke at a roundtable interview about what made him want to be a part of the Pirates franchise, how his wife (Penelope Cruz) helped inform his decision to sign on, finding the dark and scary Captain Salazar, the huge amount of respect among the cast and crew, and what it was like to see himself with the finished special effects.
Question: What made you want to be a part of this franchise?
JAVIER BARDEM: Many things. As a movie-goer, I enjoy the franchise. I also think it has one of the most iconic actors of all time. [Johnny] Depp’s power is up there now, in movie history. He has an amazing charisma and he has a talent that we all know, but what he brought with his character is something very extraordinary. As an actor, I wanted to see that first-hand. I wanted to be there. I wanted to play with that, knowing that he’s a great player. He really helps you to throw the ball and model the character to fit the role. When the scene comes, he knows there is nothing better than sharing. He makes you feel comfortable and relaxed and taken care of. You are coming into a family that has been there for 14 years now, so you are a newcomer and they always make you feel at home. They welcome you, and that’s nice.
How did your wife Penelope Cruz’s experience on the last film inform your decision to take this role?
BARDEM: I was there on the set, on Pirates 4, and I saw how good everything worked out. She was pregnant when she was shooting, and they respected that. So, I saw the production quality and the detail. In this movie, I would walk around my boat and I would lift a plate, and there would be hand carved things in the wood that the art department did, that nobody would ever see, but it was there. You have to respect that and you have to be responsible for that. You are the one who is going to bring that into the performance. That’s important in a production like this. That helped me to say yes.
What did you draw from to bring out the deep, dark rage of Captain Salazar?
BARDEM: It comes from the page and what is written. First of all, it comes from the proposal of the writer, and then you see if it fits in the story. That is when the fun begins, for an actor to imagine who that person is and why he’s doing what he’s doing. In this case, what made him become the monster he became? I don’t think and actor needs to necessarily go through his things to do his job. I think it’s way more important to imagine. And then, when you’re imagining, your experiences, your images and your own personal things will show up, but you keep imagining. You don’t get stuck in your own personal things, otherwise you are telling your story in every character, and that’s not interesting for anybody.
You play a lot of villains now. Would you play the hero?
BARDEM: I’ve only played three – in No Country, Skyfall and [Pirates]. The thing is, the movies are very powerful, in different ways, and the characters had some resonance. Without the character, those movies would mean nothing. And then, I’ve played people that are on the line of evil and good, but that’s life. We are always playing with the good and the bad. I see them as people. I don’t see them as caricatures. I try to not make them caricatures. Maybe I fail, but I try to see what’ behind them. Would I play the hero? A superhero? I don’t think so. But, I play good guys. There are some there, but you have to look.
What draws you to playing villains?
BARDEM: It’s not that I’m drawn to playing villains. They call me to do it, and then I take a look and see what is there, on the page. As an actor, I thought it would be interesting to play this character because he’s in this franchise and there is something there to play with. This character is seen in two different lights, the light of success when he was alive and full of honor and in command, and then the when he was taken by darkness and rage and pain. I thought it was interesting to go there.
Were there any struggles for you, as an actor, with this film?
BARDEM: No, it was an easy, fun ride to do. On every set, you have to wait for lighting, and this and that. The bigger the movie is, the more you wait. They had to move boats. It was crazy! You’d go back to your trailer and think, “That’s going to take seven hours,” but it only took 30 minutes.
These movies are very culturally diverse, and there’s at least one strong female character in each one. How does that set environment blend into the filming, with having such a well-structured and well-rounded cast and crew to be surrounded by?
BARDEM: I think it’s a good point that you’re making, and it’s true. It’s fun that the only character that is intelligent, smart and sensitive is the woman. The other ones are empty heads, especially me with half a brain. But what I felt on the set, always, was a huge amount of respect. It’s very easy to respect the stars, as they call them, but I’m always very aware of how they respect the crew members. Everybody was very well taken care of, and everything mattered. Everything was important. That is translated onto the screen because they do it in reality, and that’s nice. It’s a movie that brings a lot of pressure, and there were first-timers that came without ever working on a movie like this. It could have been easier to lose the nerve and lose the control, and they didn’t.
What was it like to see yourself with all of the make-up and special effects?
BARDEM: The guys from Australia who won the Oscar for Mad Max did [the make-up], and it was all handmade. It was pretty amazing! That was three hours long, which is not that long for such great detail work. And the hair was all pulled back because that wasn’t there. I saw some drawings and ideas, but it wasn’t until I saw the movie that I realized how powerful it was. I think they’ve done a great job because it didn’t kill the performance. When you are surrounded by so many special effects, the fear is that you’re going to survive it, but they did a great job. They really respected the actor’s job, and helped it with the special effects.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is currently playing in theaters.