When you walk into an Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu film, you know not to expect puppies and rainbows—unless those puppies are getting run over and the rainbow quickly disappears behind a looming storm cloud. Since his feature debut, Inarritu's name has become synonymous with filmmaking that's as exceptional as it is exceptionally dark. Strung together by the throughline of death, "Amores Perros," "21 Grams," "Babel" and his latest film, "Biutiful," unflinchingly delve into the dark night of the soul. Exquisitely composed and gut-wrenchingly portrayed, Inarritu has been nominated for numerous awards, including three Oscars, and his leading actors are routinely singled out during awards season.
At the center of "Biutiful" is Javier Bardem as Uxbal, a man caught between worlds. He's both an underworld hustler and a devoted father, a man who sees the dead and is slowly dying himself. Popcorn Biz spoke to Bardem at the film's Los Angeles press day and asked what drew him to the decidedly bleak and demanding role.
"Alejandro," Bardem replied. "I'm a huge fan of his work and I knew he was going to be an amazing actor's director based on the performances I saw in his other movies. But more important than that—because I'm not the kind of actor that gets crazy about names—is the material itself. This script [was] beautifully written by [Inarritu] and the character was very complex. I knew it would be a hard task but a rewarding one. Alejandro and I were holding hands, climbing the mountain together. And here we are. We survived."
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Considering "21 Grams" earned Oscar nods for Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro and both Rinko Kikuchi and Adriana Barraza Babel were nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category for "Babel," we wondered if Bardem have any hope that his work would be recognized during the upcoming award season, but he quickly silenced any talk of honors.
"That would be pretentious," he said dismissively.
On a perkier note, since July, when he was promoting his role in Ryan Murphy's film "Eat Pray Love," it's been reported and speculated that the Spaniard will be appearing on "Glee" as a rock star who befriends Artie (Kevin McHale). So when can we expect to see Bardem joining New Directions? No time soon, sadly.
"I talked to Ryan and he seemed really excited about the idea but that was a long time ago," Bardem laughed. "I don't know anything, I swear."
Hmmm, we believed him right up until the "I swear." Doth the gentleman protest too much?
"Biutiful" opens Dec. 29.