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Javier Bardem talks to the Hollywood Reporter at the Boulder Theater. Javier Bardem, star in “Being the Ricardos,”  receives the Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF) Outstanding Performer of the Year award on March 5, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
Javier Bardem talks to the Hollywood Reporter at the Boulder Theater. Javier Bardem, star in “Being the Ricardos,” receives the Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF) Outstanding Performer of the Year award on March 5, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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Editor’s note: The article below has been updated to reflect the correct location of the Canary Islands.

When internationally known actor Javier Bardem looked through the falling snow Saturday to see a line of people stretching from the Boulder Theater and down Spruce Street, he said he wondered where they were going.

When told that the line was for his performance at the Boulder International Film Festival, Bardem joked.

“Oh, my God, they are really wasting their time,” he told the crowd of more than 800 people who packed the Boulder Theater to see the star.

BOULDER, CO, March 5, 2022: Javier ...
Javier Bardem signs an autograph after arriving at the Boulder Theater. Javier Bardem, star in “Being the Ricardos,” receives the Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF) Outstanding Performer of the Year award on March 5, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Bardem, 53, was a special guest at the 18th Boulder International Film Festival, as part of the first live showing of the Awards Chatter podcast. Sisters Robin Beeck, BIFF executive director, and Kathy Beeck, director of BIFF, presented Bardem with BIFF’s Outstanding Performer of the Year Award. He received the award for his performances in three major motion pictures that were released in 2021: “Dune,” “The Good Boss” and “Being the Ricardos.”

“Thank you very much for having me. I will keep this close to my heart,” Bardem said as he held the award.

After receiving the award, Bardem talked with Scott Feinberg, columnist from The Hollywood Reporter and host of Awards Chatter. Bardem walked the audience through his life, shared anecdotes that made the crowd burst into laughter and wrapped up by inviting them to ask him questions of their own.

Bardem’s performance as Anton Chigurh in the Coen Brothers’ “No Country for Old Men,” won him a Critics’ Choice Award, a British Academy Film Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Golden Globe Award. He also claimed an Oscar for the role — becoming the first Spanish actor to win the award in 2008.

Bardem was born in the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago southwest of Spain near Africa, and raised in Madrid, Spain. Bardem comes from a long line of actors in his family, including his late mother, the legendary Pilar Bardem. His brother and sister, Carlos and Mónica Bardem, are also actors.

Bardem said he saw how his mom struggled with times of unemployment in her acting career and how it made him hesitant to pick up the family craft.

“I went through the cold. I went through the hunger. I went through many things my mom had to go through with her kids, because the phone wasn’t ringing,” Bardem told Feinberg. “I didn’t want that.”

He began studying to be a painter. But, Bardem said, he couldn’t ignore what was in his DNA.

BOULDER, CO, March 5, 2022: Javier ...
Javier Bardem talks to the Hollywood Reporter at the Boulder Theater. Javier Bardem, star in “Being the Ricardos,” receives the Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF) Outstanding Performer of the Yea” award on March 5, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

“I start to be the guy in the classroom who makes funny things. … I can portray every teacher, and I can mimic everybody in the class, so it was like, ‘(expletive), I’ve got it,’” Bardem said.

To support his studies in painting, Bardem started working as an extra in movies. Sometimes he got one line. Other times it was two. The work led him to his role in his first feature film “The Ages of Lulu,” a 1990 Spanish drama. Not much later, Bardem would meet his wife, Penélope Cruz, while acting alongside her in the 1992 film “Jamón Jamón,” directed by Bigas Luna. Bardem, then 21, plays a truck driver turned underwear model.

“I thought to myself, ‘They are going to pay me to kiss her? I will take it,’” Bardem said.

Bardem and Cruz married in 2010.

Feinberg said it was “Jamón Jamón,” that led to international interest in Bardem as an actor, opening doors to come work in the U.S. But Bardem stayed in Spain for the time being, taking on roles including “Mouth to Mouth,” released in Spain in 1995. Bardem plays a struggling actor, with a side gig as a phone sex operator.

Bardem also talked about his accidental role portraying Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas in the 2000 movie “Before Night Falls,” directed by Julian Schnabel. Initially Bardem wasn’t going to play the lead, but he was offered the chance and told he had a month and a half to learn English. Bardem said he hadn’t thought the movie would get much attention, but it ended up getting nominated for an Oscar — a movie Feinberg said would be in the first Spanish acting nominee category at the Oscars.

“It meant for me something absolutely surreal,” Bardem told Feinberg.

Bardem recalled how he threw a party with roughly 200 people at his terrace home to celebrate.

“The elevator broke. It was a great party,” Bardem said. “We called the firemen. We had run out of ice. We asked the firemen to bring ice.”

Bardem said the firemen brought boxes of beer and ice as they responded.

“That’s how (much) it meant. Because, they knew what we were celebrating,” Bardem said.

Bardem talked about his work leading up to “No Country for Old Men,” a 2007 movie about a welder and hunter who stumbles on a drug deal gone wrong and takes $2 million for himself. This prompts Chigurh, played by Bardem, to ruthlessly hunt the man down, killing anyone who gets in his way.

Feinberg described Chigurh as a “psychopathic serial killer, with a bad haircut and cattle gun.”

“We don’t really know much about this guy; there isn’t much backstory,” Feinberg said. “All we know is he is like the Grim Reaper. When he shows up, somebody is not going to come out of that room, and he is. How does one play, let alone play well enough to win an Oscar, a guy like that? There is no information to work with.”

Bardem said when he thought about the role, he saw that as Chigurh, he was playing the symbolism of violence.

“When violence takes place, it’s unstoppable, and it doesn’t do any good for anyone,” Bardem said. “It only destroys, and you have to embody that.”

As for the iconic bad haircut of the character, Bardem said he had to walk around with it for three months and keep it encased in a hairnet when not shooting. When the shoot wrapped, Bardem told the audience about a present he got: A cake with 17 candles. Every candle featured a photo of a person Chigurh killed in the movie.

When Bardem won an Oscar for the role, he talked about how the best part about the ceremony was being able to look into his mother’s eyes and tell her how much he appreciated her as a mom and actress, as well as what it meant for the Spanish acting craft.

“That moment is really more valuable than hundreds of Oscars, but the Oscar gave me the possibility of that moment,” Bardem said.

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