‘Absolute values do not exist’

Javier Bardem has it all. Handsome, enticing and award-winning, the Spanish actor is enjoying a flourishing international career. He is also a sensitive, down-to-earth man. At 36, Bardem has now reached a career peak, as Ramon Sampedro in Alejandro Amenabar’s «The Sea Inside,» a film based on the real-life story of a man confined to a bed for 30 years after a car accident. Kathimerini met up with Bardem in London recently and found out that for this leading actor, awards are not the be-all and end-all of life. And what part would he love to land? One in a film that would be shot in Greece. What was it like working with Alejandro Amenabar? I trusted him implicitly, because even though he’s a fairly young director, he is already very experienced. He directs, writes music, edits – he is so capable, it’s really scary. The most important thing, however, is that he is great-souled. When he directs, he does not impose himself. Lucky with roles As far as he is concerned, you are the best Spanish actor today. It’s very flattering, but it’s as absurd as someone saying that I’m the worst. I could give you a hundred names, all of them unknown actors, people who every time I see them, I think to myself, «I wish I had their talent.» As far as I’m concerned, I think I’m good, but I also think I’m lucky. I get offered great parts and, already, that’s 50 percent of a good performance. What would you say is the biggest challenge you face when playing a real person? You feel a greater sense of responsibility, that you can’t just let things happen. You have to do some detective work, to investigate what kind of trace this person has left behind, what he meant to himself and to the rest of the world. Was the role of Ramon exhausting or liberating perhaps? A little bit of both. What was absolutely exhausting was the makeup sessions, which would last five hours and during which I had to be completely still and not fall asleep. By going through all this, however, I was able to see what Ramon went through. The agony of not being able to move at all. The restlessness, the anger, the stress – I realized how strong he was. The only scene which we made up in the film was the panic attack. His sister-in-law told us that during those 30 years she never saw him cry, not once. Yet this didn’t seem realistic enough for the film and so we had to add a scene in which he had a crisis. Did you form your own opinion on the subject of euthanasia? When it comes to cases such as that of Ramon Sampedro, who am I to tell him that life is beautiful? It’s ridiculous to tell somebody who has been confined to a bed for 30 years that he has to be kept alive and suffer in the name of God, law or love. Prior to this film, I had taken on the role of a handicapped man in Pedro Almodovar’s «Carne Tremula.» That role was quite different from this one and at the time I believed that life stood above anything else. In the case of Ramon, however, I came to see the other side and I realized that absolute values do not exist. How important to you are the awards you’ve already won and those you’ll perhaps win in the future? They boost your ego and vanity and it’s a great opportunity for a party. That’s all. No award will tell you that you’re better than someone else. I was nominated for an Oscar for «Before Night Falls» at the same time that Russell Crowe was nominated for «The Gladiator.» Who was better? Had we interpreted the same role, then somebody would have been able to judge our performances. Awards exist in order to aid the films commercially. Talking to Alexander Payne recently, he told me that he was thinking of you for a film he wanted to shoot in Greece. Was he kidding? «Sideways» [Payne’s most recent release] is precisely the kind of American film I would like to do. For Payne, I would appear as an extra. And shooting the film in Greece on top of it? Let’s go… The interview was translated from the Greek.