Possessing a chameleon-like ability to disappear into his characters, which frequently renders him unrecognizable save for his piercing eyes, it's no wonder that Javier Bardem chose to pursue a career as an actor given his family's long history in show business. Always hesitant to play the same type of character twice, the very foundation of Bardem's career is his remarkable ability to so immerse himself in character that audiences never even see the actor. Each role is a transformation that occurs both mentally and physically, and Bardem's hesitance to embrace celebrity culture and make a conscious effort to break into the American market has only served to make him more alluring to stateside filmmakers. Born the youngest member of a family of actors in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain, in 1969, Bardem's first role came at the age of six with the film El Picaro (aka The Scoundrel). Bardem was a shy boy who immediately took to acting, and numerous television roles as well as a stint touring with an independent theater company found the young rugby enthusiast increasingly dedicated to the stage. An interest in painting led Bardem to study at Madrid's Escuela de Artes y Officios, but following a series of odd jobs and the realization that he would never develop the skills to become a great artist, he eventually drifted back into acting.
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Moving into the 1990s, Bardem's collaborations with such filmmakers as Pedro Almodóvar (High Heels  and Live Flesh ) and J.J. Bigas Luna (Jamón Jamón  and Huevos de Oro ) found his popularity as a Spanish screen star growing. Goya-nominated for his performances in both Jamón Jamón and Huevos de Oro, Bardem took home the award for his roles in Dias Contados (1994) and Boca a Boca (1995), and it was becoming increasingly clear that a formidable international talent was emerging. Though some may have regarded Bardem as little more than a beefcake sex symbol due to his steamy early roles, a turning point came with the release of 2000's Before Night Falls. A thoughtful look at the life of Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas, Bardem took over the role after Benicio Del Toro abandoned the it, and his physical transformation stunned audiences worldwide. Arenas was an ultimately tragic figure who eventually committed suicide while living in poverty in New York City, and Bardem prepared tirelessly for the role by changing his diet, immersing himself in Arenas' works, and traveling to Cuba to speak with those who knew the writer personally and to learn the Cuban dialect. In addition to drawing the actor international accolades, the role also found Bardem making history as the first Spanish actor ever to be nominated for an Academy Award.
Though the offers came flooding in following the success of Before Night Falls, Bardem remained steadfast in his resistance to the Hollywood system. Turning down roles in such blockbusters as The World is Not Enough, it became increasingly obvious that Bardem was indeed sincere in his intentions to remain thoughtful about his career choices. Following his role in actor John Malkovich's directorial debut, The Dancer Upstairs (2002), Bardem's role as an unemployed dockworker in Fernando León de Aranoa's Mondays in the Sun (also 2002) again found the actor drawing praise. Though the film ultimately didn't take home the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, it did net Bardem another Best Lead Actor Goya in addition to being voted Best Film at the awards.
In 2004 Bardem joined forces with director Alejandro Amenabar for the euthenasia drama The Sea Inside , earning solid reviews for his work as a man fighting to die with dignity. He bolstered his status as an international leading man with Milos Foreman's Goya's Ghosts in 2006, but the following year would bring Bardem the most substantial praise of his career to that point with his work in the Coen Brothers No Country for Old Men. His portrayal of the remorseless, amoral killer earned him nearly unanimous praise and several year end accolades including the Best Supporting Actor prize from the Screen Actors Guild, the Golden Globes, and the Academy Awards.
He followed up the career defining work playing Fidel Castro in Steven Soderbergh's biopic Che, and was a red-blooded Spanish lover in Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona. In 2010 he earned rave reviews for his work in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Biutiful. In 2012 he joined an ever-growing list of actors who have played the bad guy in a James Bond film when he appeared in that capacity in Skyfall.
~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi