Javier Encinas Bardem was born on March 1, 1969, in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain. Born into a popular acting family—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 (The Ages of Lulu, 1990); Jamón, jamón (1992); and Huevos de oro (Golden Balls, 1993)—all of which were directed by filmmaker Bigas Luna (Huevos de oroalso featured fellow up-and-coming Latino actor Benicio Del Toro).
Bardem expanded into more dramatic roles in the mid-1990s, playing a drug addict in Días contados (Numbered Days, 1994) and a police detective in El Detective y la muerte (The Detective and Death, 1994). In 1995, he 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. The actor reteamed with celebrated Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar—who had cast him in 1991’s Tacones lejanos (High Heels)—for 1997’s Carne trémula (Live Flesh), also featuring Spanish actress and Bardem’s future wife, Penelope Cruz. In that film. He 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, portrayed by actress 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).
Javier Bardem’s performance as Cuban writer and revolutionary Reinaldo Arenas, who committed suicide in 1990, following a long struggle with AIDS, in Julian Schnabel’s edgy Before Night Falls (2000) earned Bardem the best reviews of his life—as well as a place on the international radar screen. With several major awards—including best actor honors from the National Board of Review and the National Society of Film Critics—under his belt. He became the first Spanish actor 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-Jamie Foxx thriller Collateral (2004), he starred as a quadriplegic fighting for his right to die in The Sea Inside (2004), based on a true story.
More Acclaimed Roles
In 2007, Bardem appeared in two literary adaptations: Love in the Time of Cholera, derived from the best-selling novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and No Country for Old Men, adapted from the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name. While Love in the Time of Cholera received mixed reviews, Bardem garnered wide praise for his performance as Anton Chigurh, a hitman who lives by his own code, in No Country for Old Men. A modern Western of sorts made by Ethan and Joel Coen, the dark film also stars Tommy Lee Jones (as the sheriff who frustratingly but continually tries to solve the string of murders that Chigurh leaves in his wake). One of the most striking physical features of Chigurh was his haircut—which Bardem actually referenced at the 2008 Academy Awards, in the acceptance speech that he delivered after receiving the Oscar 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 again in Woody Allen’s popular 2008 film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. He later played a leading role in the 2010 film Eat Pray Love.