Actor. Born Javier Encinas Bardem, on March 1, 1969, in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain. Born into a popular acting family in Spain (his mother, Pilar Bardem, has appeared in several of her son’s movies), Bardem built a considerable reputation among Spanish movie audiences as the sexy star of such steamy films as Las Edades de Lulu (1990, The Ages of Lulu), Jamón, jamón (1992), and Huevos de oro (1993, Golden Balls), all directed by filmmaker Bigas Luna. (The last film also featured fellow up-and-coming Latino actor Benicio Del Toro.) He expanded into more dramatic roles in the mid-1990s, playing a drug addict in Días contados (1994, Numbered Days) and a police detective in El Detective y la muerte (1994, The Detective and Death).
In 1995, Bardem showed considerable comedic talent when he spoofed his heartthrob image in Boca a boca (Mouth to Mouth), playing a struggling young actor who gets a job as a phone sex operator. He reteamed with celebrated Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar (who had cast him in 1991’s Tacones lejanos, or High Heels) in 1997’ s Carne trémula (Live Flesh), also featuring Spanish acting star Penélope Cruz. In that film, Bardem had the meaty role of a policeman paralyzed in a shooting accident who ends up marrying the same woman his shooter is in love with.
Bardem made his English-language debut in Perdita Durango (1997), playing Romeo, the lover of the film’s title character, played by Rosie Perez. The film made little impact on critics or audiences. In 1999, Bardem starred with Spanish siren Victoria Abril in Entre las piernas (Between Your Legs).
His performance as the Cuban writer and revolutionary Reinaldo Arenas, who committed suicide (he was suffering from AIDS) in 1990, in Julian Schnabel’s edgy Before Night Falls (2000) earned Bardem the best reviews of his life—and a place on the international radar screen. With several major awards—including the National Board of Review and the National Society of Film Critics’ honors for Best Actor—under his belt, Bardem became the first Spanish actor ever to earn an Academy Award nomination.
Bardem went on to tackle a prominent role in actor John Malkovich’s directorial debut, The Dancer Upstairs (2002). After a supporting role in the Tom Cruise-Jaime Foxx thriller Collateral (2004), he starred as a quadriplegic fighting for his right to die in The Sea Within (2004), which was based on a true story.
In 2007, Bardem appeared in two literary adaptations. He had a role in Love in the Time of Cholera, derived from the best-selling novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. While Love in the Time of Cholera received mixed reviews, Bardem has received an enormous amount of praise for his work in No Country for Old Men, adapted from the Cormac McCarthy novel. Made by Ethan and Joel Coen, the dark film is a modern western of sorts with Bardem playing Anton Chigurh, a hitman who lives by his own code. Tommy Lee Jones plays the sheriff on trying to solve the string of murders he leaves in his wake. After stealing money from the scene of a drug deal done bad, Josh Brolin gets tangled up with Chigurh as one of his intended victims.
One of the most striking physical features of Chigurh was his haircut. And Bardem even referenced it during his acceptance at the 2008 Academy Award ceremony during which he won the award for Best Supporting Actor. “Thank you to the Coens for being crazy enough to think I could do that and for putting one of the most horrible haircuts in history over my head,” Bardem told the audience.
Bardem starred with Penelope Cruz and others in Woody Allen’s popular 2008 film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
An in-demand actor, Bardem is set to play Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in the upcoming film Killing Pablo as well as star in Eat, Pray, Love.