Javier Bardem joined TheWrap’s Editor-in-Chief Sharon Waxman at the ArcLight in Sherman Oaks for a spirited discussion before a packed house, part of the site’s ongoing Academy Screening Series.

Bardem says he shied away from the challenging role at first. “I got scared because I knew this was a life journey, not a performance,” he said. “There’s no way you can do that without immersing yourself in the skin of that person.”

To prepare for the role, Bardem returned to the acting school he’s been attending for over 20 years. After meeting with his coach, he realized he was going to have to live the pain of his character in order to achieve the emotional veracity demanded by the role. “I didn’t perform in this one,” he confessed. “There was no way to perform it rather than be it.”

Read the full piece here.

Biutiful friends

December 5th, 2010

A long list of Hollywood influentials are coming out to support Biutiful.

Following the film’s New York City premiere, an impressive group joined Iñárritu and Bardem and wife Penelope Cruz for dinner, including Miuccia Prada, Ingrid Sischy, Sandy Brant, Al Pacino, Patricia Clarkson, Todd Solondz, Paul Haggis, Holly Hunter, Alicia Keys, Claire Danes, Gabourey Sidibe, Moby, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Lee Pace, Chace Crawford, CAA’s Bryan Lourd and Beth Swofford, the film’s producers David Linde and Jon Kilik, and Roadside Attractions co-president Eric d’Arbeloff.

Sean Penn will hold a Q&A at the Directors Guild of America on December 5 with Javier Bardem and director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu. The event is hosted by the SAG Film Society, and 500-plus actors are expected to attend.

Michael Mann hosts a private VIP screening at CAA on December 10. And Werner Herzog, Robert Benton, Guillermo del Toro, Julian Schnabel, and Alfonso Cuaron, host a London screening December 13.

On the red carpet for the NYC premiere of Biutiful, director Alejandro González Iñárritu shared his thoughts on the working with Javier Bardem.

“For me this is a very personal project,” said González Iñárritu. “Because of the themes it broaches, because I risked everything and put it all in. And [Javier] felt equally close to the material and affected by it, though curiously I wrote it with him in mind without knowing if he would accept it, taking a risk. We were both so devoted to the material that we found reasons to do it beyond just work. It was beautiful to share that.”

Bardem echoed the director’s enthusiasm over the collaboration: “Alejandro is a person who writes very potent, very intense material, and he likes to direct in a way that demands absolute submission from the actor. And as it happens, I’m a bit like that too. And when the two of us got together, we went very far. Very far in the sense that, with a problem like this, you can’t keep your hands in your pockets. That’s what we did, and it was intense, difficult, physically and emotionally exhausting, but we both knew that what we were doing had a meaning.”

Writing in Newsweek, Caryn James offers this review of Biutiful.

“Alejandro González Iñárritu (director of Babel and 21 Grams) and Javier Bardem (the No Country for Old Men and Sea Inside Bardem, not the witty seducer in Vicky Cristina Barcelona) aren’t the cheeriest pair around, but in the deeply felt, eloquent Biutiful, their collaboration is inspired.

Bardem plays Uxbal, a petty criminal scraping by on the grimy back streets of Barcelona, sometimes earning extra cash from mourners because he can truly communicate with the recently dead. He also has two small children (Biutiful is his daughter’s misspelling), a bipolar ex-wife off her meds, and, as if life weren’t Job-like enough, a diagnosis of hopeless prostate cancer.

Bardem’s subtlety and control make Uxbal’s attempt to find a future for his children heartbreaking yet (unlikely though it sounds) thoroughly unsentimental. Iñárritu’s trademark interwoven plots have one thread too many here, but this shattering experience—earthbound and fraught with the afterlife—is worth every undying minute.”

Javier Bardem On Uxbal

November 18th, 2010

Javier Bardem always wanted to work with Alejandro González Iñárritu and vice versa – and the two finally come together with Biutiful. González Iñárritu had Bardem in mind for Uxbal even as the character first emerged in his imagination. When he showed Bardem the script, the actor’s reaction was instantaneous.

“It had a deep impact on me, for sure,” says Bardem. “I had a very instinctive, emotional response to it. When you have this kind of material, you know you are going to jump into an ocean of doubts and fears, and also expectations and joys. In the end, with this story, it is the journey that counts, but you want to do it right, to do justice to it. You don’t want to rush to get to a particular place but give yourself completely over to it. It is a journey towards love, towards the light, towards the positive things inside something that has become black, dark and difficult.”

Uxbal embodies a man of roiling contradictions – a devoted father, broken lover, hardened street criminal, spiritual sensitive – in a moment of sudden, intensifying personal danger and vulnerability, as well as transformation. “These contradictions were already there on the page,” he notes. “All of these aspects of Uxbal were beautifully rendered and described in the screenplay. What I had to do was find the meeting point of all of these things without betraying any of them. In the end, Uxbal is a normal person who has to face a very tough experience, who has to face reality, and who has to overcome all this to leave a legacy for his family, a legacy which he could not have left in the beginning. He wants to leave something positive for his kids, something that gives them hope and something they can carry in their future lives.”

Writing in The Wrap, Steve Pond says Biutiful “is as powerful as it is sorrowful; it creates, and sustains, a gentle, piercing mood that’s hard to shake afterwards. This is a film that sticks with you, with a towering lead performance from Bardem that absolutely should put him in the thick of the Best Actor race.”

Pond attended a screening of the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu drama at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theater on Saturday, when the director was joined for a post-screening Q&A by director of photography Rodrigo Prieto, editor Stephen Mirrione and composer Gustavo Santaolalla, a panel with seven Oscar nominations and three wins between them.

The session was moderated by Oscar-winning director Guillermo Del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”). “Del Toro is hardly the only high-profile backer the film has acquired,” Pond says.”Sean Penn told Josh Brolin the film was ‘a f—ing masterpiece.’ Director Michael Mann is a big fan; so are Werner Herzog, who’ll moderate an upcoming DGA Q&A with Inarritu in Los Angeles, and Robert Benton, who’ll do the same in New York.”

Writing in The New York Times, Karen Durbin takes a look at five breakout performances, including Maricel Alvarez in BIUTIFUL.

“With her majestic nose and modest chin, the acclaimed Argentine stage actress and choreographer Maricel Alvarez may not be conventionally pretty, but it doesn’t matter because she’s captivating,” Durbin writes. “Ms. Alvarez gradually inflects Marambra’s cheerful energy with a sharpening manic edge… At the same time Ms. Alvarez shows us a woman of genuine love and affection trying to resist the wild, exhilarating abyss that beckons her.”

Set in Barcelona’s little-seen underbelly, BIUTIFUL it tells the desperate story of Uxbal, a haggard Javier Bardem, who won the best-actor award at this year’s Cannes film festival. “One would never know that Ms. Alvarez is making her film debut,” Durbin writes. “In giving a tragic dimension to her complex portrayal, she rises to the occasion of Mr. Bardem’s own.”

Sixty-five countries have submitted films for consideration in the Foreign Language Film category for the 83rd Academy Awards. BIUTIFUL, directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, is the official submission for Mexico.

Writing in Deadline, Mike Fleming writes “While the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-directed BIUTIFUL already figured to be an Oscar contender, for a performance by Javier Bardem that won Best Actor honors at Cannes, the picture is now a contender for Best Foreign Language film.” BIUTIFUL will be released December 29 in New York and Los Angeles to qualify for Oscars and will get a wider release early next year.

Iñárritu On BIUTIFUL

October 27th, 2010

After having globe-trotted with Babel, I thought I had explored enough multiple lines, fractured structures and crossing narratives. Each of the films I have made has been shot in a different language, in a different country. At the end of Babel, I was so exhausted I made it a point that my next film would be about just one character, with one point of view, in one single city, with a straight narrative line and in my own native language. Using a musical analogy, if Babel was an opera, BIUTIFUL is a requiem. . . and here I am.

BIUTIFUL is all that I haven’t done: a linear story whose characters shape the narrative in an unexplored genre for me: the tragedy.

BIUTIFUL, for me, is a reflection akin to our brief and humble permanence in this life. Our existence, short-lived as the flicker of a star, only reveals to us its ineffable brevity once we are close to death. Recently, I thought of my own death. Where do we go and what do we transform into when we die? Into the memory of others. This is the anguishing and dizzying race against time that Uxbal faces. What does a man do in his final days of life? Does he dedicate himself to living or to dying? Perhaps Kurosawa was right when he said our dreams of transcendence are just that: an illusion. Regardless, since the film’s inception, I was never interested in making a movie about death, but a reflection in and about life when our inevitable loss of it occurs.