Javier Bardem is not one to complain on set. The Pirates of the Caribbean star talks to Gemma Dunn about staying grounded.
Javier Bardem is reportedly never late.
Whether it’s on set, to dinner with friends, or anywhere, he prides himself on being “punctual” – or “punto” as it sounds in his trademark thick Spanish accent.
“That’s why I don’t wear a watch,” he says, pushing back his sleeves to reveal bare wrists.
“If you don’t wear a watch, you’re punctual, because you’re much more into the time – ‘What time is it?’ Rather than, ‘Oh, I’ll give it five more minutes’,” he explains. “There’s no reason for it. I don’t like unpunctuality.”
Sure enough, Bardem, 48, shows up for today’s interview at 10am sharp – maybe even a minute or two early. He’s bright, engaging and dressed to impress in a white shirt (top button undone), blazer and jeans.
A deep thinker, he’s worlds away from the rogues he plays so well (take Skyfall’s unhinged Bond baddie Raoul Silva, for example, or his Oscar-winning portrayal of remorseless hitman Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men), yet there’s no denying his prominent cheeks and sinister brows make for villain gold.
Add to that a hulk-like figure and bellowing voice, and it’s little wonder this Hollywood hunk’s next stop is a title role in the fifth instalment of the swashbuckling Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise: Salazar’s Revenge.
The latest chapter, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg, finds down-on-his-luck Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) feeling the winds of ill-fortune when deadly ghost sailors, led by his nemesis, the terrifying Captain Salazar (Bardem), escape from the Devil’s Triangle, bent on killing every pirate at sea.
Bardem, a fan of the previous films, was only too happy to drop anchor for the part.
“It’s a joy,” says the Canarian. “It allows you to bring your inner child, because you’re in a pirate movie and you’re in a Jerry Bruckheimer Disney production.
“You’ve got to go over and have fun, and try to bring some truth to it, in the sense that it’s a Disney movie and you have to be liked if you play a villain. But also, you have to be interesting enough for people to be scared and attracted.”
To shape the fearsome character, Bardem confides he worked with the image of a wounded bull in rage, “bleeding in the arena, dying, and wanting to kill that bullfighter”.
“The idea for me was to create somebody in pain and the only release of that pain would be revenge,” he explains.
“We know that’s not the release of anything – revenge doesn’t take you further than hate, but at the same time, it’s a Pirates Of The Caribbean movie, you have to put some music into it. It’s not No Country For Old Men, which is dry,” he adds with a chuckle. “This is wet.”
A three-hour stint in a make-up chair and a black liquid to dirty his teeth (Bardem calls it “monkey poo”) completed the transformation.
“You’re paid for it, so don’t complain!” he adds. “But yeah, you get there at 5am and the first thing they give you is a coffee and the second thing was to put glue on my skin. Glue. Like real glue!” he says, touching his face.
“Taking it off is easy because you’re so tired of it. What you see in the movie is exactly what was on my face. They did an amazing job.”
He’s well-versed in leaving the rest of the character behind, too.
“You experiment and then you go back home to your family,” he says. “Otherwise it would be too crazy.”
Unlike Salazar, he doesn’t see the point of seeking revenge in his personal life.
“I’m a human being,” he says, pausing to sip his coffee. “Sometimes I feel I would like revenge, but then you think twice and after five minutes it goes away, because it’s a waste of time.”
He puts this wisdom down to his younger days when he played rugby for Spain’s national under-21 team.
“They kick your ass when you play rugby and the immediate response is to [take] revenge. But then you belong to a team and if you focus on your personal revenge, you’re going to break the rule of the team and be on your own. That’s a lesson in life.”
He applies the same rule to actors on set.
“It’s very easy to be too pleased with yourself,” he says. “You have to be surrounded by people who tell you the truth and those usually are family and friends, which is my case.
“Sometimes you wish they were not telling you that much truth. But it’s like being punctual. There’s a lot of people working, so let’s get together and let’s do it. One is not more important than the other.”
Bardem chooses to shun the Tinseltown pack in favour of spending time in Madrid with his actress wife Penelope Cruz, who he started dating after they worked together on the 2008 Woody Allen film Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Questions about his home life (do the couple’s son and daughter join him on set? Did Cruz give him any advice on his role, having herself starred in the previous Pirates film, On Stranger Tides?) are deflected.
“I remember we talked about how difficult it is to not be a spectator when you’re working with Johnny,” he eventually offers. “Because Johnny becomes Jack Sparrow in front of your eyes and you go, ‘Wow’.
“It’s like when I was working with Daniel Craig on James Bond, or Judi Dench. They become those people in front of you.’”
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (12A) is out in UK cinemas today.
Bardem’s sweep of starring roles continues, with Escobar (alongside wife Penelope Cruz) and psychological horror Mother! also scheduled for release later this year. Explaining his busy work schedule, he says: “First, I’ve always said it’s easier to work in the States, than Europe. I haven’t been called more than 10 times in 25 years to play a European movie, in the States, you’re a foreigner and you can do different accents. Second, when you do a movie like this, you do it for many reasons. What I want is to be paid, to keep on doing all kinds of movies. But in the end, it’s all about the roles.”