Javier Bardem Sails Into Newest ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ Installment

(l-r) Geoffrey Rush and Javier Bardem star in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. ©Disney Enterprises.


Front Row Features

HOLLYWOOD—“Pirates of the Caribbean” has become a family tradition at the Bardem household. In 2011, Penelope Cruz played Captain Jack Sparrow’s sparring partner/love interest in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” Now her husband, Oscar winner Javier Bardem (“No Country for Old Men”) joins “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” the latest excursion into the phenomenally successful film franchise based on a Disney theme park ride. Bardem plays Captain Salazar, Sparrow’s newest and very dangerous adversary.

The charming Spanish film star spoke about joining the successful franchise and playing opposite Johnny Depp, who for the fifth time reprises his antihero marauder role, once again nearly two decades after they co-starred in another film.

Q: You worked with Johnny Depp 17 years ago on “Before Night Falls.” What was it like working with him then and now?

Bardem: (deadpan) Bad. It was bad, because he looks exactly the same from 17 years ago. I think, “Oh man. What happened?” I think I’ve aged. He hasn’t. No, he hasn’t aged. I can tell you, I was this close.

Q: Coming into this established franchise, how was it working with him this time?

Bardem: He was exactly the same. Back in the day, 1999, he was a gentle guy; nice, caring, generous actor who flew from the States to Veracruz, Mexico to help us with, “Before Night Falls,” was the movie, based on the Reinaldo Arenas novel. I love that movie. He helped us by playing two scenes, two roles. I was a little bit starstruck when he came to the set because it’s Johnny Depp and he’s been so nice of coming all the way to Mexico to help us. I play this scene and we have a kiss. We kiss each other (makes a kissing sound). He didn’t write me back. Then he kissed my wife in “Pirates IV” (“On Stranger Tides”) so it’s kind of in between the family now. I’ve seen him through the years. I was on the “Pirates IV” set and he’s a gentleman.

When I worked with him in this one, I was just amazed by how easy for him it is to be him. Not easy, sorry. Not easy. How skilled he is as a clown to become this character so easily. The first times I have to cut the scene, I have to cut the takes, because I was laughing. As a moviegoer I was like, “Wow, here he is. Here is Jack Sparrow!” He would do and say everything he wanted and it will be brilliant, because he knows so well. He’s a player. He likes to play. He won’t ever let you down. He’s always very caring about the person in front and giving the exact kind of a game for the other actor to play with. He will never let you down. That’s my experience with him.

Q: Do you remember what your first reaction was when you saw the very first “Pirates of the Caribbean?”

Bardem: I was in Iceland in a little tiny fisherman village on holidays, 2003, and then I saw it in a movie theater. I said, “OK, I’ll get there because I already did my tourist thing.” It was a long time since I saw any pirate of the movie on screen. I said, “Oh, I’m very curious to see this”, and I was blown away by Johnny’s work. By the movie, but Johnny’s work, like wow, that is very challenging. Now we see it so easily, but back in the day, he really took a risk and he scored the goal. I loved it. Since then I’ve seen them all and some are better than others, but all of them have some amazing quality, amazing production value to it. They are entertaining. They are made to entertain and they are entertaining.

Q: Was there much convincing for you to join this franchise on this one?

Bardem: No. I knew that the production value of that was going to be fantastic. Because I was on Part IV set, I saw how everything worked out so well. It was more about what to play and what to bring and (producer) Jerry Bruckheimer, from the very beginning was very generous in bringing ideas, and me along with the directors started to create the character. The way he would talk and speak and where he would come from and the looks were some of them decided and some of them to be decided, and we made it together. That’s great for a movie like this. You think everything is by the book, no? No, it’s the opposite. They really encourage you to bring your input, which is great.

Q: Your character, Captain Salazar, has that thing about him that he wants more than anything, which is to become human again. Is there something in your life that you want as much?

Bardem: I would love to become human again. My mom tells me that I was kind of human at three years old and then something happened. I don’t know what. Oh yeah, I became an actor.

The only thing that I want the most is love and peace. It’s pretty cheap. Guys come on. It’s too much pain in this world. It’s too much. That’s also a reason why, you are a father and you want to make a movie that entertains, that brings join and laughter. It’s as important as to do another kind of movie that helps you to reflect in other things. It’s not less important. The risk is to be in a good one, and I think this is a good one, no? There are many out there that they tried that but it’s like, “Zzzzzzz.” This one’s like, “Yeah. You made that. They made it.” The ending of the movie was spectacular and the hair, my hair is like, crazy, no? The first time I saw it on screen, because I didn’t know how I was going to look, I was really pleased and grateful for the people who did it, because it really helps the performance. It gives this softness. It’s great.

Q: Did you do makeup?

Bardem: (quips) It was me with sunscreen.

Q: Was there makeup involved?

Bardem: It’s three hours makeup. I know women that take longer to put their makeup on.

Q: Are you used to being in the makeup chair?

Bardem: No, not that long.

Q: Did it drive you nuts?

Bardem: Yeah, it drives you nuts. The first thing they do is to give you a coffee. They’re nice. It’s 5 a.m. It’s cold. It’s Australia. Then you know that you have 14 hour days ahead of you. Then they give you a coffee and the second thing they do is to put glue all over your face. Like, actual glue, with a brush. It’s like you have a dog on your face, and then they put this chicken breast on you, because they like chicken breasts. Then you sit. They tell you, “Now don’t talk, eat or drink for the next three hours.” Argh! Then you start to get crazy. Then when they say, “Action” you have the rage of the character.

Q: Did you have to do anything different because the way the hair moves? And, on set, did you have to do anything different in terms of the movement?

Bardem: No, I thought about it and no, which is great. They came after the performance. They adjusted to the performance, which is good, because I was worried about that, like, “OK, should I do something?” and they were, “No, no, no, no. Do your thing and we’ll adjust to what you do.” It’s great. It’s funny because I thought of my character being a wounded bull, a wounded animal, and sometimes I would be very aggressive on the movements. I didn’t think about if I do that, what would they do with the hair? But it’s great. They go whoosh, like that. I never did it on purpose, but it looks great.

Q: You’ve played several, to me, very iconic villains at this point. Do you enjoy playing villains and do you worry about getting typecast?

Bardem: This is a job. I do what they offer me and then among what they offer, I try to get the best. I’m always saying, I’ve only done three villains. “No Country for Old Men,” “Skyfall” and this one, but they’ve been in very powerful movies, so I guess that’s why the echo of them are bigger, no? Because they belong to good movies. They’re different genres, but strong movies.

Q: Can you expand on that, because you are known to be a peace-loving guy. You’ve previously said in interviews that you are anti-violence.

Bardem: (deadpan) And then I do “No Country For Old Men,” which is a beautiful, peaceful movie. (He laughs.)

Q: How do you set yourself up in the mind space knowing that you’re very peace-loving, anti-violence, to flip the switch and go into preparing yourself to be that iconic villain?

Bardem: It’s a gift. It’s a gift in the sense that I have the chance to put that out, and maybe not in this movie. Well yes, in this movie, because I take it seriously. When I play rage, I play rage. Then it will be on them to decide how to tune it up or tune it down. But yes, if I play rage, I play rage. I don’t play rage for kicks. I think one of the great gifts of being an actor is to be able to give room to your 100,000 characters that we all hold inside. One of them is in rage and it’s good to give it a voice and say, “OK, now you’re going to be out there for a couple of months and have fun and enjoy it.” It’s good. It’s not that I want to kill people when it comes out, but you have to say, “Yes, I am that, as well. I am that.” The problem is when you are in character and you are supposed to be one way and you are holding those thousands of characters inside of you and you’re not giving any room to them. That’s where the danger comes.