Skyfall Interview: Javier Bardem is Raoul Silva


Next to James Bond himself, the next most interesting person to talk to on any Bond movie would have to be a villain, because there have been so many classic Bond villains played by so many great actors, including Christopher Walken, Christopher Lee and many others. In the case of Javier Bardem, it comes roughly five years after winning an Oscar for playing the villain in the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men and it will be his first appearance on screen since 2010’s Biutiful, for which he received a third Oscar nomination.

When we finally got to talk with him, Bardem was being particularly cagey about Raoul Silva, the new villain he plays in the 23rd James Bond movie, Skyfall, so all we know is that he’s someone involved with terrorism that Bond has to stop. You created a rather iconic villain with Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men” and now you’re playing a Bond villain, which people assume to have specific characteristics or mannerisms. Do you think you’re bringing something to this Bond villain to change it in some ways?
Javier Bardem:
Yeah, it was already there on the page, and that’s what really put me in the place. The script, the story is very powerful and very complex. Also, it has everything that you would ever expect expect of a James Bond movie combined together. Also, when I saw the character, I thought there was a lot of complexity, actually, behind that. Then, I talked to Sam, and Sam gave me his vision of it and I was like, “Hrm, that’s very interesting,” so as I say, there’s meat to chew. (pantomimes chewing a steak with his hands) Then I say, “Well, this is going to be fun.” James Bond movies are in the middle ground of reality and fiction. It’s not a superhero movie where everything is because it is, you don’t need any skills or any reason for the things to be like the way they are because people climb buildings and we go, “Oh yeah, right.” James Bond movies are always in the middle of fiction and being a very realistic movie. That’s a great ground to play a character like this, where you have the freedom to bring different colors that are allowed, and also, you have a frame. There are certain rules in Bond’s movies, no? Actually, we all expect it to happen. When you’re playing a villain, you have to be in that frame, which is a great frame to be because it’s very challenging to be part of the frame of the James Bond movie, and also be able to bring your own thing to it. I did not answer your question, but I spent five minutes, which was my goal. (Laughter) But in “No Country for Old Men,” it was more of a symbolic idea of evil, kind of a fatal destiny for the rest of the characters, something that would happen out of the blue, and it was kind of a symbolic idea of violence. That was even more intellectual, maybe. Here, there’s more air in it. Whatever that means, I don’t know, but it’s like that. It’s a Bond villain.

CS: Would you say there’s a flamboyance?
Flamboyance? There’s many different things, hopefully. Also, I’m shooting, so, what the hell do I know until I do it, you know? (chuckles)

CS: Were you inspired by any previous Bond villains?
No, I try not to really go back to that because the first instinct is to revisit the James Bond movies and take a look to those villains that you like the most are more appealing to you for different reasons. I try to avoid that because that would kind of put me in a place where I have to run away from it or reach to that, and I don’t want to be there. Again, what they were offering me as material was very particular. I said, “Okay, this is a lot.”

CS: Do you have a main characteristic as a Bond villain? Like a scar or is that a blonde wig or your hair?
Hrm… (clearly pausing to waste time) That’s a very direct question. (laughter) I cannot answer. Who knows? It’s fun. I love this mystery.

CS: Is Silva Spanish?
He is kind of the whole area. (Laughs) He is not from Oklahoma, I can tell you. By the way, I love Oklahoma. Because I’ve been there shooting the Terrence Malick movie in Battlesfield.

CS: Is there any Moriarty/Sherlock Holmes like chemistry going on in this case between the villain and James Bond?
Hrm… that’s a very… the relationship between Bond and Silva is very… (pauses)… you can say “And he laughed….” Ha ha ha. No, I cannot say.

CS: You’ve done so many great roles, but your villains are so good.
It’s funny. I’ve been working since 1988, which is 24 years ago, and I’ve only played three villains. This is the third.

CS: What is it that’s so intimidating or scary about you as a villain?
(Laughter) I don’t know, but I really think because of the echo that “No Country for Old Man” has had, which I would have never expected. I never expected that it would have that big resonance or that echo in people. You never know when something’s going to work and when something’s not going to work. I mean, you never know. That’s the part of the game and you embrace that part of the game. You say, “Well, I’ll try my best,” because you never know. When I saw “No Country for Old Men,” I felt it was a great movie because I really adore and admire the Coens, so I thought, “Wow, this is a great Coen Brothers movie,” but I didn’t see myself as especially scary, no. It’s also not what you do as an actor, it’s what are you surrendered by? I’m only saying that the scene in the gas station in “No Country for Old Men,” I did what I could, the text, the lines are amazing, Cormac McCarthy, the way the Coen brothers sort of showed it, superb, but the guy who plays the man in the gas station, that’s the man who puts the fear on the scene. That’s the man who makes the scene very good. It’s not me, it’s him. It’s like when they say you play a king, no, you don’t have to play a king. You have to make sure that everybody treats you like a king. You don’t need to be like this or be like that. You have to make sure that the rest of the cast is treating you like a king. Well, that was a good example. It’s not that I play scary, the (other) guy was playing fear very amazingly. It makes you feel like, “Wow, he’s dangerous.”

CS: We get the impression Silva is a more active villain than Le Chiffre, Blofeld or some of the others that were a little more stationary. We see that you’re being chased through London and we hear you’re carrying guns as well. Can you talk about this being a more active role for you?
Yeah, well there’s some action, for sure. You have to be prepared for that and it’s also fun, but Daniel is doing amazing things.

CS: He’s used to it now, because he’s done two other movies now in this role.
Yeah, but again, you were there yesterday, right, with the explosions? He was right below that. You go, “What?” and he said, “No, it’s okay.” “It’s okay?” I was up on a ladder miles away and he was down there. I mean, his commitment and his confidence is amazing, because he’s not only that. He’s an amazing actor. He’s doing great scenes, great scenes, but he’s so well-prepared, but yes, I do what I can. (Laughs)

CS: Is this the most action you’ve ever done for any movie you’ve been in?
Sure, yeah. Sure. Well, I did one in Spain called “Perdita Durango” in ’96, but yes, this is by far the most, yeah.

CS: Is it more fun to play the villain than to be a good guy?
I mean, it will always depend on what’s behind the villain or that good guy. I mean, I try always–sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don’t–to find people, to find human beings behind actions. It’s always fun to play somebody that has a reason to do what he’s doing.The evil aspect of it is something I am not interested, it’s something that has to come out from something more than being evil. It’s about a need about an objective, about a circumstance, about an action that he wants to create in order to achieve something. To play evil just to play evil is boring, it’s like playing ugly or playing blonde or playing blind, I don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense. It has a meaning for the people that are watching; otherwise, it’s boring. That’s the theory of it. Sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you just do exactly what you are trying to avoid. (chuckles)

CS: Were you always a fan of the Bond series when you were a kid?
Yeah, I mean, yeah, I’m 43. The first one I remember watching it very consciously, kind of taking in everything. It was “Moonraker,” which I don’t know what year it was. (1979) Then I was 10, I guess and maybe in Spain, one year after I was 11, yeah, it makes sense. I was amazed with my parents with Jaws, and I felt like, “Wow, space, all of that.” Yes, I’ve seen all of them, and when you do have a villain like I’m doing now, it’s basically kind of an homage to a franchise that you’ve seen through all the years, you’ve seen many great moments in it, and they invite you to be a part of it and speaking of the frame, you say, “Okay, I want to be in that frame to see what I can do.” Because it’s fun and also, it’s creative, in that sense, Sam Mendes has a lot to do with it because it has a lot of meat.

CS: Having seen all those movies, have you dreamed of being in a Bond movie?
It’s not that I dreamed of playing a Bond villain, it’s that when it came to me, then the dreams start to happen. It’s not something that I wanted to do, it’s something that when I read it and I felt it was very good, then all these memories of movies that you’ve seen and characters that you saw on screen that mean a lot to you because you were having fun with it or being scared by it came to me and I said, “Wow, what a blessing. How lucky I am? Okay, let us do it.” But, always because the material was interesting, not something I would do just to be in a Bond movie. You want to be in the right movie or what you think or consider is the right movie, and in this case, it happens to be a Bond movie.

CS: For this movie, you have Sam Mendes and a lot of great actors, and it’s also the 50th Anniversary of Bond.
Yeah, that’s true, which I didn’t know until two months ago, but I knew when I started to do this movie, it’s not something that I knew before starting to do it. It was like, “Wow, this is going to be the one that’s going to celebrate the 50th anniversary.” No, it’s brilliant. The other day I was on the set with Albert Finney and Judi Dench and it was like, “Wow. I mean, Albert Finney and Judi Dench.”

CS: Everybody we’ve spoken to has been very excited about working with you, saying you’re very charismatic, you have a very strong presence, on and on and on. How does that make you feel?
Thank you for saying that. My ego is now beyond this room. I don’t know. It’s good. I mean, it’s easy, like life. When you’re with the right people doing the right thing, because of the right motivations, then things are easy and I’m lucky because I like to be where I am now with this group of people and do what we’re doing. It’s like, “Wow, in this world that we live in, you’re blessed.” First of all, you’re working. They’re paying you for it and you are working with good people and what is the reason to be mean or to be an *sshole? We’ve been working for five months, and there wasn’t one moment where you go, “Hrm, I don’t like that.” Of course, then you give the best of yourself, and they give the best of themselves, and you see that happening. It’s a commitment to the work, you know? Even when you are in the wrong place with the wrong people you go like, “Wow, yeah.” In this job, as many other jobs, in every job I guess, some moments happen like that and you go like, “Wow, I should have said no. I shouldn’t be here,” but it’s a job. You make a living out of it. I do a living, and sometimes you go, “Whatever, man, I have a contract, so I do it.” Thank God in these 24 years I have never been in a situation like that. That I will consider luck on my side because I always choose carefully, which doesn’t mean that everything I choose was good. No, some of them were very bad movies, but I choose them for the right reasons, so I always believed in it, you know what I’m saying?

CS: One of the big differences with this Bond villain is you interact with M, which is something we haven’t really seen, M interacting with the villains, because that’s Bond’s job. I’m curious about doing scenes with M.
No, really? But I cannot say that.

CS: We know she plays a bigger part in this movie and that she’s had scenes with you.
Oh, how do you know that?

CS: Because you said she has scenes with you.
She said that I had scenes with her? Oh, yeah? Hold on. (Yells across the room to Dame Judi) Is it true that you said—? (laughter)

CS: Actually, you just said you have scenes with her.
No, no, I was on the set with Albert Finney and Judi Dench, which is to say that I was in the same place with both of them, and I was like, “Oh my God.” Ah… you were this close! (laughter) Yeah, we have something.

You’ll have to check tomorrow and get Dame Judi Dench’s side of the story and find out if she actually did say she had scenes with Bardem even though he denied it.

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