From writer/director Asghar Farhadi, Everybody Knows (Todos lo Saben) is part family drama and part mystery thriller, as it follows Laura (Penélope Cruz), a Spanish woman living in Buenos Aires who returns, along with her two children, to the small village outside Madrid where she spent her childhood to attend the wedding of her younger sister. While there, unexpected events lead to a family crisis that causes mounting suspicions and exposes dark secrets that were long buried.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Javier Bardem (who plays Paco, Laura’s friend and former love) talked about his reaction to finding out that director Asghar Farhadi wanted to work with him, wanting to give all of himself in return, what makes Farhadi such a special filmmaker, and how they approached finding his character. He also talked about what made him want to sign on for Dune, with director Denis Villeneuve, and why he sees the job as a blessing.
Collider: We last spoke for Loving Pablo, which I thought you and your wife both gave such tremendous performances in. You were also both so incredible in Everybody Knows, as well.
JAVIER BARDEM: Thank you! You’re very kind. We appreciate it.
Both films were interesting character studies, especially seeing them back-to-back, and really compelling pieces of work.
BARDEM: Yeah, it was back-to-back. Well, Mother! and Loving Pablo were really back to back, only a month apart from each other. From Loving Pablo until Everybody Knows was six months.
When a filmmaker like Asghar Farhadi called you, a few years ago now, about doing this film and he told you what it would be, what did he say to you?
BARDEM: If you are religious and a believer, you light a candle and thank all of the virtues that you know the name of, for creating that miracle. If not, I just close my eyes and say out loud, “Fuck, am I lucky or what?!” Many months ago, before I met him for the first time in Los Angeles, funny enough, because he was promoting A Separation and I was promoting something else, I saw A Separation at a movie theater and I couldn’t believe the quality of that movie, in every aspect. And I thought, “Jesus, if only I could learn Persian. If I knew Persian, I’d go to Iran and beg him for a job.” Months later, he comes and says, “I wanna make a movie in Spanish. Are you interested?” I was like, “What?!” I couldn’t believe it. What a stroke of luck. So, the first thing is that you’re really grateful for the amazing luck you have and you think about what you did to earn it. And then, you ask, “If he gives me this chance, what can I give back? What does he need from me? I’ll give it all.” And that’s what we did. We gave all of the time, focus, and help that he wanted and needed from us, in terms of language, preparation, and everything. And it was nothing more than one of the greatest personal acting experiences that I’ve ever had. It was excellent.
What do you think it is about Asghar Farhadi that makes him so special, as a filmmaker?
BARDEM: He’s a very special human being. He is a very good, luminous and enlightened human being, in the sense that he’s really deeply caring, loving, very smart, very well-read, and very funny. He’s laugh out loud funny. At the same time, he’s very tranquil with an amazing energy. There’s no rush, no insanity, no panic, and no fear. Everything is gonna be fine. We were there with him for four months and, believe me, I just wanted to be near him to learn from him. And he’s only 40-something. It’s not like he’s 75. It’s unbelievable. He knows about our human nature and he exposes that very well.
You have to go to some dark places in this, but it never feels overdone. Your performance is emotional, but it’s also understated and subtle. Was that a decision that you made for your performance, or did that come out of conversations that you guys had about who this guy is?
BARDEM: We talked about it as much as we could, and we rehearsed for a month before shooting. We found it together. What he does, as a filmmaker, is bring to life characters that are very complex and who are going through very complex situations, but on the surface, are very common and very simple. That dichotomy is such a beautiful thing to work with. It’s easier to play something more unique or singular than somebody that is more common. At the same time, you have to play all of these sensations, reactions, feelings and emotions that you wouldn’t normally have, in daily life. You will have them in a space of time, but not in four months. And I’m not even talking about me. I’m talking about Penelope’s character. She really had to stay in that state for so long, and the way he treated her, he took care of her. He really demanded her to go to the edge, but in such a beautiful, gentle, caring way that, of course, she went. She would have done anything that he wanted. He never, ever put her, or any other of us, in any place that we didn’t wanna go.
You’ve also signed on for Dune, director Denis Villeneuve, who is also an incredible filmmaker. Was it his previous work that drew you to that, or was it the script or the character?
BARDEM: I saw the Dune from David Lynch. I’ve read the first two books. I saw Prisoners. I saw Sicario. I saw Arrival. I love Blade Runner . And then, I met him and he asked me, if I’d ever be interested in being in Dune. It was like, “What?! Yes! Of course! Are you kidding?!” Again, what a luxury. What a grace. What a blessing to have a job that you like, and not only that, but to be near people that you admire and that have inspired you, and that you really follow because you love what they do, and they ask you to be a part of that. It’s a luxury, in this life, that I can have. The only thing that I can give back is all of my will and all of my skills, if I have any.
BARDEM: I wanna earn it. Sometimes you doubt. Sometimes you wake up and go, “Fuck! I forgot everything! I suck today!” You have to put yourself away and not be an obstacle anymore.
Do you know when you are going to be shooting Dune?
BARDEM: It’s going to be May/June.
Everybody Knows is now playing in theaters.