Javier Bardem, in full Javier Ángel Encinas Bardem, (born March 1, 1969, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain), charismatic and versatile Spanish actor who first came to prominence in the 1990s.
Bardem, who was born into a family of actors and filmmakers, appeared in his first professional role at age five. After briefly studying painting in Madrid, he concentrated on an acting career. In 1992 he received much attention—especially from women—for his work in Jamón, jamón, in which he played an underwear model hired to romance a factory worker. Three years later he proved he was more than a sex symbol by winning a Goya Award (Spain’s national film award) for best supporting actor for his performance as a drug addict in Días contados (1994; Running Out of Time). In Boca a boca (1995; Mouth to Mouth) he garnered laughs and another Goya Award as an aspiring actor who falls in love with a customer while working for a telephone-sex company. Bardem later appeared as a wheelchair-bound policeman in Pedro Almodóvar’s Carne trémula (1997; Live Flesh).
Although a major star in Spain, Bardem remained relatively unknown to international audiences until 2000, when he starred as Reinaldo Arenas, the subject of the screen biography Before Night Falls, which was Bardem’s first English-language film. Bardem immersed himself in the role—losing 30 pounds (13.6 kg) and downplaying his rugged good looks to portray Arenas, a homosexual Cuban writer who was imprisoned by the Fidel Castro regime in the 1970s. Bardem became the first Spaniard to be nominated for an Academy Award for best actor. Although inundated with Hollywood offers, he selectively sought challenging roles. In 2002 he starred in both the thriller The Dancer Upstairs, the directorial debut of actor John Malkovich, and the drama Los lunes al sol (Mondays in the Sun); his portrayal of a laid-off shipyard worker in the latter earned him another Goya. For his moving performance as quadriplegic Ramón Sampedro in Mar adentro (2004; The Sea Inside), Bardem collected his fourth Goya.
In 2008 Bardem won his first Academy Award, for best supporting actor for his chilling performance as a sociopathic killer in No Country for Old Men (2007). The violent and bleak film—based on the best seller by Cormac McCarthy and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen—follows assassin Anton Chigurh (Bardem) as he hunts a down-on-his-luck welder who stole a suitcase of drug money. Carrying an air gun, Chigurh cuts a bloody path across Texas as he relentlessly chases his target. Later in the year, Bardem was again on the hunt as he portrayed a lusty painter pursuing women in Woody Allen’s comedy Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008). In 2010 Bardem married Penélope Cruz, one of his costars in the film. Later that year he appeared opposite Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love, based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir of the same name.
For his performance as a cancer-stricken father in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Spanish-language drama Biutiful (2010), Bardem earned a third Academy Award nomination. His role as a flamboyantly vengeful terrorist served as a villainous foil for James Bond in the blockbuster Skyfall (2012). In Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder (2012), Bardem portrayed a priest experiencing a crisis of faith. His later credits included The Counselor (2013), a drama about drug trafficking that also starred Cruz, and The Gunman (2015), an action film centred on mineral conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2017 Bardem appeared as the undead Captain Salazar in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and as a poet whose marriage is tested by the arrival of strangers at the couple’s secluded home in the psychological thriller Mother! He also costarred with Cruz in both Loving Pablo (2017), about the relationship between Pablo Escobar and journalist Virginia Vallejo, and Asghar Farhadi’s family drama Todos lo saben (2018; Everybody Knows). In 2020 he portrayed a man contemplating alternate lives in The Roads Not Taken.