Javier Bardem achieves villainous success in ‘PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES’


Javier Bardem in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

Courtney Howard // Film Critic

My wardrobe was short. I looked ridiculous. I didn’t scare the sh*t out of anyone.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN is now on its 5th adventure at sea with directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg’s DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. As audiences continue to flock en masse to the films in this series (with each film grossing more than the last), creating the tales that fuel them has become a challenge. However, the risks involved only lead to greater payoff – especially in terms of the franchise’s villains. This means that only an world-renowned actor of Academy Award-winning caliber could ever fill that role. Enter Javier Bardem!

This latest installment pits our beloved and inebriated Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) against a formidable foe, Captain Salazar (Bardem), who’s filled with a dark rage, totally hellbent on killing every pirate at sea.

No stranger to playing many iconic villains on the silver screen prior, Bardem connected with Captain Salazar’s internal drive.

The idea of somebody being trapped in his own rage and the pain that comes with it – and that rage being based on betrayal. How his only aim is revenge. Those are powerful ideas that has a strong message behind it. For me, as an actor, I need to know why I’m doing what I’m doing. I like this idea of becoming someone totally driven by revenge and pain – and the pain that accompanies him. That’s why we worked on the physicality, the voice, and the breathing. There’s something there that is not right.

I see him as a victim. The guy who I did in SKYFALL, I don’t see him… I can see the guy I did in NO COUNTRY, maybe. You have to really understand why you’re doing what you’re doing otherwise you’re judging them. You can not judge your characters otherwise you won’t be able to play them.”

Trying to keep the on-set intimidation factor up proved to be a tad challenging for Bardem.

The face was prosthetics. It’s all handmade. It took three hours, which is not long. And the hair was pulled back and had this blue screen, because [my character] has half of my skull missing, with blue dots. And my wardrobe was short. I looked ridiculous. I didn’t scare the sh*t out of anyone. But then when I saw the movie I was like, ‘Wow!’ But then [on set], they were like [imitates snickering], ‘Yeah right.’

While special effects play a huge part in Captain Salazar’s aesthetics, Bardem still had a few practical techniques he utilized – specifically when it came to the tar-like blood that oozes from his mouth when he speaks.

They said, ‘Put something in your teeth,’ because I have rotten fake teeth. ‘Nah. Nah. Fuck that! [imitates chugging liquid sound]’ I drunk it. It tastes horrible- like rotted chocolate. At least there’s some chocolate in it. I called it, ‘Monkey poo.’ I said, ‘I think it’s going to be fun to have that stuff pouring out of the mouth, not like it’s blood – like it’s rage.’ Inside of him is pouring out constantly. It seems to work.

I did a scene with Geoffrey Rush and he was not expecting that thing pouring out of my mouth. He spent the whole scene [mimics wiping his face]. There are funny moments like that, that aren’t in the movie.

Javier Bardem in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

Pre-viz mock-ups of the sequences including Bardem’s character were mildly helpful for him to aid in creating movement

It was very computerized, but you could see more or less the direction they are taking. I didn’t see how it was really going to look like until I saw the movie. In one way it’s hard because you don’t know what you’re doing in some ways. But when you watch the movie, you’re an audience member – and I was blown away by the quality of the special effects. It’s pretty groundbreaking.

It will come as a shock to most that Bardem didn’t have to spend one second of his time at sea. His performance was all captured on a soundstage.

Everything was done in a studio. All of my scenes – except for the one I’m on the beach where I’m close to the shore. That was a real beach. Beach. That’s still a word for me. Every time I say ‘beach,’ I have to say, ‘I did not say bitch.’ Penelope [Cruz] said that when she first came here, she asked for a blow job at the hair salon… Blow dry! I say that because I know that she’s said it because she’s funny.

Bardem’s perpetually works in a specific physicality into every villain he plays. Anton Chigurh had his eerily-focused stoicism. Silva had a delightful playfulness when it came to the macabre. And Captain Salazar has his intimidating gravitas and physical heft.

I was more into the idea of a wounded animal – a bull. When they were talking about the hair, they were dealing with different options and they ended up with the wave. I said, ‘Let’s not forget about the color. It’s got to be dark black – like a bull. And the thing that’s pouring out isn’t red – it has to be black, like bulls when they bleed on the arena.’ The blood is so red that it’s almost dark. That idea of the animal out of breath and always [struggling] for the last breath, trying to leave the arena. That was the idea behind the walk.

Infusing a character with life, working from the script’s blueprint is what Bardem takes the most pride in during the entire process.

That’s the fun part. That’s what I love to do. To create something that’s not on the page and go with that… And then the directors are like, ‘What the f*ck are you doing?!’ [laughs] I say, ‘Don’t worry.’


About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.