Exclusive: Javier Bardem, “Biutiful” – FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: The rally cries rang out in support of Javier Bardem and his performance in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Biutiful” shortly after the actor’s name was left off the short lists at both SAG and the Golden Globes.

“Every awards season is rife with injustices, but one in particular stands out so far this year. Javier Bardem’s performance in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s haunted, crushing tone poem ‘Biutiful’ is a towering achievement, a magnificent performance that should comfortably sit on every list of the great acting accomplishments of the year,” Steve Pond wrote in The Wrap.

Dave Karger echoed the sentiment on EW.com, stating, “Bardem … is nothing short of devastating as a Barcelona dad struggling to keep his family together amidst unspeakable personal and professional tragedies.”

But another influential group is speaking up in Bardem’s defense: His peers.

Ryan Gosling, speaking with Karger about his own Globes nomination for “Blue Valentine, lamented, “Look at Javier. How could you not acknowledge that?”

Ben Affleck spoke with Pond, saying, “When I saw ‘King’s Speech,’ I thought Colin Firth gave the best performance I’d seen in a couple of years. Then I saw ‘Biutiful.’ Javier is on another level from the rest of us.”

Even Sean Penn agreed, saying Bardem’s “Biutiful” performance is the best he has seen since Marlon Brando in “Last Tango In Paris.” Penn even hosted a special screening of “Biutiful,” followed by a Q-and-A session.

I asked Bardem about these reactions from fellow actors during a one-on-one interview we had on behalf of the brilliant “Biutiful.” His response showed the expected amount of class, humility, humor, and dignity.

“That just means that they are great, great friends,” Bardem told me with a hearty laugh. He went on to recall that SAG Q-and-A, which initially gave Bardem second thoughts.

“I said following [that] Screen Actors Guild Q-and-A that coming here to speak about performing in front of Sean is like going to speak about music in front of Mozart. What the hell am I going to say, right? And for him to take the effort and come from Haiti, where he is doing real things for real people — not movie things — to come out and support us and help us to put this movie on the map … that’s such a tremendous and generous gesture that I do not have words to say how thankful and proud of him I am.”

Iñárritu’s “Biutiful” has been picking up faithful (and powerful) supporters since it screened at Cannes last spring. In the film, Bardem plays Uxbal, a terminally ill father who is racing the clock to solidify his children’s place in this world so they’ll be able to survive without their father.

It’s not the first time Bardem has contemplated death for a role, and he admits that playing Uxbal had him confronting his own mortality, if only for a moment.

“When you have to do Uxbal’s journey for 5 months, it’s impossible not to think about [death],” Bardem told me. “But also, the good thing is, before ‘Biutiful,’ I have played characters who are dying, in ‘Before Night Falls’ and such, and … death always was a different thing. In ‘The Sea Inside,’ death was a love story that never happened. He wanted to be hugged by death, and he was desperately looking for that embrace. So yeah, when you are portraying those people, you think about it. But you also know that what you think is not going to help the character’s thought. The character’s thought is only his thought.”

It is that laser-sharp focus on “character” and “role” that helps Bardem stand out in virtually every film. Though he is quick to point out that this collaboration with Iñárritu for “Biutiful” was so much more than a movie. He calls it a “life journey,” one that has changed the way he lives his life in the wake of the performance.

“The gift of being an actor is being able to know the world from a different perspective.,” Bardem said. “I got to understand the human beings who were behind those characters. … Those are human beings with the same needs, desires, wishes and fears that we all have.”

Bardem told me his biggest hope for “Biutiful” is that audiences take that “life journey” with him, that they open their hearts and minds to the message Iñárritu brings with the difficult film.

I’m going one step further, hoping Academy members embark on that “life journey,” recognize Bardem’s beautiful performance, and include his name in one of the five Best Actor slots when Oscar nominations are announced next month.


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