• Golden Globe Awards

Nominee Profile 2022: Javier Bardem, “Being the Ricardos”

Whether he’s playing a sociopathic hitman, pirate, underwear model/bullfighter, detective or painter, Javier Angel Encinas Bardem seems to have no boundaries to the unique creative stamp he puts on every role he inhabits on screen. Now the 52-year-old Spanish native enters the fray as bandleader, singer, and television pioneer, portraying Desi Arnaz in Aaron Sorkin’s Being the Ricardos, which earned the actor his fifth Golden Globe nomination as Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama (he previously won for No Country for Old Men). The film chronicles one week in the making of the iconic TV series I Love Lucy that showcases how Lucille Ball (Nicole Kidman) and Arnaz managed to navigate not only the innovative process of their show but also the volatile political, business and personal obstacles that came their way.
For Bardem, the chance to portray Arnaz, one of the very few Latin stars in the early days of television, was an opportunity he actively pursued for years. During press for the film, he revealed his fascination with the man and how he approached his performance.
“When we play real people, we want to get as close as we can to reality, but there’s a moment where you have to let that go,” he noted. “You have to express what the person is going through, not how he looks or speaks. Desi had a motor inside of him that constantly pushed forward, pushed not only himself but the show and the whole Desilu company.”
History has shown that as brilliant as Arnaz was, he had flaws, and Bardem acknowledges that the film doesn’t hold back. “It is a journey of pleasure and joy and laughter — a lot of laughter. There are great comic moments in it. But there are also dramatic, emotional moments that show that these people who were so loved and admired were just a couple of human beings with flaws — as we all are.” Then he adds, “But there were many things that he could have done better.”
Since he first started acting when he was 6 years old, one might be hard-pressed to proclaim that Bardem could have done things better. While it could be argued he was preordained to succeed in the profession, following in the artistic footsteps of his grandparents Rafael Bardem and Matilde Munoz Sampedro, his screenwriting and directing uncle Juan Antonio Bardem and his actress mother María del Pilar Bardem Muñoz, his initial ambition was to be a painter. Bardem studied for four years at Madrid’s Escuela de Artes y Oficios before economic pressures enticed him back to acting. Needless to say, there was no looking back in the rear-view mirror.
After a small role in the film The Ages of Lulu which starred his mother, Bardem landed the lead in Jamon Jamon (which coincidentally starred his future wife Penélope Cruz). Appearing in more than two dozen films in his home country, it was Julian Schnabel’s Before Night Falls that subsequently opened the door for the actor to make films in English, a language he actually learned for that film. Like an express train, roles in such films as Collateral, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Biutiful, and Skyfall have cemented his reputation as the heir apparent to Pacino, Nicholson and De Niro, an observation made by Francis Ford Coppola.