Actor Javier Bardem honored at SBIFF

“No Country for Old Men” star Javier Bardem talks to members of the media on the red carpet at the Arlington where he was present to receive the Montecito Award.

January 29, 2008 7:26 AM

Although blessed with a leading-man face, actor Javier Bardem has spent his years in film disappearing into roles.
He has gained weight, lost hair and been aged 50 years through make-up artists. But this ability to metamorphose and disappear into character has earned the actor two Academy Award nominations, and he was winner of the Actor in a Supporting Role category at Sunday’s Screen Actors Guild awards. And at this year’s Santa Barbara International Film Festival Monday night at the Arlington Theatre, it led to the Montecito Award.
Mr. Bardem currently stars as the evil monster of a hitman, Anton Chigurh, in the Coen Brothers’ “No Country for Old Men.” The role earned him his second Oscar nomination.
The actor, however, takes all the attention with a great deal of modesty.
“I guess they had some impression from (my character’s) haircut and cattle gun,” he said, as he stopped for questions on the red carpet.

Javier Bardem chats with SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling at the Arlington where he received the Montecito Award.

True, Chigurh’s appearance and way of dispatching victims makes the picture. But as SBIFF Executive Artistic Director Roger Durling pointed out in his introduction of Mr. Bardem, it is the character under the pageboy haircut that gives us nightmares.
“I’m overwhelmed by the size of the theater . . . and by the size of the people,” the actor joked of the three-quarters- filled Arlington. He said he was also happy that “somebody may be interested in what I’m doing.”
Audiences have been interested since Mr. Bardem began acting on Spanish television in the ’80s. A montage of clips highlighted his multifaceted career Monday night, from Spanish films rarely seen in America to his recent appearances in “The Sea Inside,” “Love in the Time of Cholera,” and “Collateral.”
Outside the theater, Mr. Bardem said it was hard to watch himself in his films, even when he looks so different. Can he ever separate himself from the person on screen?
“I wish,” he said, “but it’s impossible. That’s the test for an actor. But all you see is your stupid face making stupid faces.”
His fans disagree.
“He’s a class of actor who’s so invested in a role that he disappears into it,” said Peter Gelles, who came from Los Angeles for the show. “Peter Sellers was another actor like that.”
“He so takes over aspects of a character . . . their mannerisms, that you don’t recognize him,” agreed Karoliina Tuovinen, who assisted in the editing of the montage, but is first and foremost a Bardem fan.
Woody Harrelson, Mr. Bardem’s co-star in “No Country for Old Men,” was the presenter of the award.
Mr. Bardem maintains strong ties to his home city of Madrid. Asked about learning English to gain more roles, he said that he still attends the same acting school that he’s been at for 20 years. “I have the same teacher, too, Carlos Corazza.”
For the actor, the attention is not just about his name, but that of his whole family, all of whom are actors or directors or tied to the arts. It was important, he said, because not long ago actors “were not allowed to be buried on sacred land,” he noted, adding that the (Spanish Catholic) authorities considered them “as homosexuals and prostitutes.”
Now, facing the attention and affection from the audience and the film festival, he said, “I feel like I can do anything.”

©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

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