Oscar Nominee: Javier Bardem Leading Actor, "Before Night Falls" Wednesday, March 7, 2001; 4 p.m. EST
Javier Bardem portrays Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas in "Before Night Falls." Arenas did jailtime and experienced cultural repression for his literary work and his homosexuality. Bardem is nominated for a best actor Academy Award for his role in the critically acclaimed film about oppression and the struggle to escape from it.
Bardem, the son and grandson of actors, achieved international success with his work in "Jamon, Jamon" in 1992. In 1995 he won a Goya, the Spanish national film award, for best supporting actor for his performance in "Dias Contados."
washingtonpost.com reporter Christina Pino-Marina interviewed Bardem on Wednesday, March 7, at 4 p.m. EST, with questions submitted by our readers. The Real Audio interview follows, as well as a transcript.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
washingtonpost.com: washingtonpost.com reporter Christina Pino-Marina interviewed Javier Bardem with questions submitted by our readers.
washingtonpost.com: Mr. Bardem, welcome. If you can start by explaining a little bit about your role in the movie and what the movie is about.
Javier Bardem: The movie is called Before Night Falls and its about a Cuban poet whose name was Reinaldo Arenas. And he went out of Cuba because he was chased because of being homosexual and being a writer in the 70s and the 60s. And then, at the end, he was in exile in the States and he died at the end … with the AIDS. It's the story of a great human being.
washingtonpost.com: Can you describe a little bit about your role?
Javier Bardem: The role. It's a person who was born in Cuba and then he believed in the revolution in the early days and then he enjoyed the revolution because he believed in that. When he was 20, the regime published his first book, called "Singing from the Well" and then, from that moment, he was chased because he was homosexual and he enjoyed the intellectuals of the island. And that was like, like a crime in those days, to be an intellectual and to have your own opinions about the life about the regime and also the homosexuals. So he spent three years in prison, in jail and tried to escape from the island several times and he published his own work out of the country because he sent his manuscripts from out of the jail with a person. At the end of his days, he lived in Miami and New York. It is a beautiful role. Its about how tolerant can be we. How we the human beings can be tolerant with the rest of the human beings. And how the people can kill each other because they don't like the difference, they don't like different people, different color of the skin or different sexual options. So, instead of trying to understand them, they kill them. And its not about Cuba, its about every kind of regime.
Washington, D.C: Is it true that you didn't speak English before the movie "Before Night Falls" and that you studied the language six hours daily from Cubans in New York?
Javier Bardem: Yes, that's true. I didn't speak very good English, like now, when I was rehearsing the movie, so I spent almost two months in New York working like, lets say, 10 hours everyday with a Cuban person who taught me to speak English with a Cuban accent.
Arlington, Va.: What type of preparations did you do in Cuba? Is it true that you traveled there? What do you think of the current situation in Cuba?
Javier Bardem: "I went there for three weeks to talk with people who knew Reinaldo and my preparation was all about talking with people who knew him and trying to understand what they went through. Like, knowing people, for example, they are gays and they were also in jail. And the situation in Cuba right now is something that I don't know very well because I've only been three weeks, but I could say that I have more rights as a foreign person than any Cuban people there. But at the same time, I condemn the economic sanctions that the United States government are doing against Cuba, because if you don't send medicines to that country you are not hurting the regime you are hurting the people in the streets, the kids, the people that live there. So I think that is not the right way to condemn something.
Arlington, Va.: Javier,
"Before Night Falls "was an incredible movie. The theater was silent throughout the entire film. Did playing such a difficult, sad role change you in any way?
Javier Bardem: Not really, the saddest thing for me was when I was playing for example the scene in the isolation cell, I'm only an actor trying to make you believe that this thing happened to me but it didn't happen to me, it was a only set, it was fake, everything. The sad thing is when you go back to the bed and you close you eyes, you try to sleep and you realize that that thing happened for sure not only to Reinaldo, but to many people like him. That's what you have to live with when you are shooting a movie like this. And that's the worst part.
Arlington, Va.: Javier... we don't know much about your personal life. Are you married? Dating? What country do you call home? Any upcoming movies we should know about? Oh, and has anyone ever told you you bear a striking resemblance to Robert Downey, Jr.?
Javier Bardem: Yes, I like him very much as an actor and its true that we have similar eyes, but he's a better actor than me. I was born in (the) Canary Islands, which is close to Africa. Then when I was five (years old) my parents took me to Madrid, the capital, and that is where I grew up. About my personal life, it is something that I don't want to talk very much, because it does belong to my personal life, but thank you for asking. And some people told me that I look similar to Raul Julia. I'm a mix between Robert Downey, Jr. and Raul Juila, which is an honor, because both of them are great actors.
Miami, Fla.: Javier, recibe la felicitación de una cinéfila paisana tuya no sólo por conseguir la candidatura al Oscar en una producción modesta para los estándares de Hollywood, ¡sino por conseguirlo sin una promoción salvaje del estilo de Miramax!
Has declarado no tener interés en trabajar en Hollywood si no recibes propuestas interesantes. Ocurre con frecuencia que, intentando hacerse un hueco en la industria estadounidense, prestigiosos actores y actrices europeos acaban trabajando en superproducciones sin más mérito que los efectos especiales y entonces los americanos se preguntan por qué demonios se hablaba tanto de ellos (Jean Reno - Godzilla).
Supongamos por un momento que fueran profesionales de Hollywood los que buscaran trabajo en Europa, particularmente todas las buenas actrices que, pasados los 35 años, no encuentran quien las contrate. ¿Con quién te gustaría trabajar?
Javier, let a cinefile and countrywoman of yours congratulate you not only for your nomitation, but for managing to get it without a crazy promotion like those of Miramax!
You said you don't want to work in Hollywood unless you receive interesting offers. Quite often, prestigious European actors on their way to Hollywood stardom end up starring in blockbusters with no other merits than the FX. And Americans wonder what was so great about that actor in the first place (Jean Reno -- Godzilla).
Let's imagine for a minute that professionals from Hollywood were the ones looking to break into European productions, specifically those great actress that can't find any offers after reaching the age of 35. Who would you like to work with?
Javier Bardem: Well, that was a long question. The thing is, I've been working in my own country for 13 or 14 years and I've done only 12 movies. That means that I take my time. I need to be really passionate with what I'm doing. That's also about Hollywood, if they offer me good roles, I will play them. Otherwise, I will stay at home, I will do theater plays, I will do my movies there or I will do whatever I have to do. But I'm not crazy about doing a career anywhere, not even in my own country. If I did want to make a career, then instead of doing 12 movies, I would do 40 at this moment. And it's not what happened. And also there are many great actors and great actresses that I would like to work with. For example, I would like to work with Juliette Binoche. The way she handled her career is an example for me of a European actress that when she's convinced that the role is good, she plays it. Otherwise, she doesn't do it.
Harrison, NJ: Who are some of your favorite American actors. Are there any other Spanish actors we should be on the lookout for?
Javier Bardem: One of my favorite actors is Al Pacino. I think he, as Marlon Brando, changed the way of acting in every actor in this world. I mean, he really gave a step forward in the acting world. And, yes, there are many Spanish actors that we should take a look at. For example, there is this actor called Carmelo Gomez, a fantastic actor. I worked with him three times in three movies. He's one of those actors, that if he will know to speak English, he will be working in the States, I'm sure. But, there are many of them. For example, Jordi Mollá, I worked with him in the movie called Jamon, Jamon, with Penelope Cruz. He's a fanstastic actor and he worked in the movie called Blow with Johnny Depp, that is going to be released this year. He is one of my favorite actors. People will discover him and he is very handsome. He has beautiful blue eyes.
Washington, D.C.: Before Night Falls was directed by Julian Schnabel, whose background is in studio art, specifically painting. Did you find that working with Schnabel was different than working with other directors, such as Pedro Almodovar?
Javier Bardem: Yes, its different, he is a painter, so he gives room to improvisation. He gives room to something new to happen, he's not a technician, I mean a technical director. He's a person who believes in the unexpected things. So when you are working with him you feel free, you feel like you are a color and he is painting with you. So you have to surrender to his ideas, but also, you have to give that color. And Pedro Almodovar is different in a way because he has this universe in his mind and you have to understand, and if you are able to understand, you will get fun working with him, but if you don't understand it, it will be some kind of a nightmare. But, thank God I did understand and I had a great time with him and I would love to work with him again. And I think he is one of the greatest directors that is in whole Europe.
St. Petersburg, Fla.: Bravo Javier! What is your favorite movie of all time?
washingtonpost.com: What are some upcoming projects that you are working on? Can you describe what that movie is about?
Javier Bardem: My favorite movie…is The Godfather II. I don't know how many times I have seen that movie, but I think Al Pacino is one of the greatest performance I've seen in my life and I haven't seen something similar since that time. And upcoming projects, there is this movie called The Dancer Upstairs, which is directed by John Malkovich, and I guess it will be released in June or July, I don't know. I think they want to show the movie in (the) Cannes festival.
Its about a policeman who captured the leader of the Shining Path, the Peruvian guerrilla, and I'm playing the policeman. It's an intellectual role.
washingtonpost.com: We'll look forward to that. Thank you very much for being with us.