×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Javier Bardem on Playing Pablo Escobar With Penelope Cruz in ‘Loving Pablo’

Loving Pablo,” about Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, is a passion project for Javier Bardem. He clearly relishes the title role in  which he plays opposite his wife Penelope Cruz, who plays Escobar’s lover. The pulpy biopic, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival before moving to the Toronto festival, is directed by Spain’s Fernando Leon de Aranoa, based on the book “Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar,” by Virginia Vallejo, the Colombian journalist with whom Escobar had an affair. Bardem spoke to Variety about the challenges of bringing “Pablo” to the screen and what it was like to work with Cruz for the first time since they’ve become a couple.

You are one of the producers on “Loving Pablo,” which has had a long gestation. How tough was it to bring to the screen?

I had long been been intrigued by Pablo Escobar. When I started to dig into this character almost 10 years ago, he wasn’t as much in the public eye. And during that period I was offered [projects with me playing] him several times, but I never felt a human link to any of those roles. I wanted to make a movie about what was on his mind; about his personal side. And I really wanted to make this movie in Spanish. But we tried and tried, and just couldn’t find the financing. Then, to move things forward, we decided we would do it in English, with Spanish accents, and we were able to mount the production.

So “Pablo” will be dubbed in Spanish for Spanish audiences?

Yes. But in Spanish-language territories it will also be going out in English.

Are you going to dub yourself in Spanish?

No. I have tried to dub myself in Spanish several times for my American movies. But at this point [in my career] my dubber is better than I am at capturing the nuances in Spanish of how my voice sounds in English. Also, Spanish audiences by now are used to his voice. So If I dubbed myself in Spanish, it would throw them off.

How did you prepare for the part, besides your prosthetic belly?

I tried to learn where his monstrous behavior came from. I was very interested in diving into Pablo’s inner self. What was going on inside Escobar’s mind that made him capable of so much harm, while at the same time he was very loving, and took care of his family and his lover. He was not somebody who appeared outwardly threatening. He moved at a slow place, like a hippopotamus. That is the physical aspect of his energy, but he could very quickly become a monster.

This is the first time you and Penelope Cruz work together since you’ve become a couple. Did this help, especially in the erotically charged [albeit devoid of nudity] sex scene?

It was easy working with Penelope. She is a great actress and we can always challenge one another to go farther, deeper, bigger and smaller. She can immediately tell what I’m doing; where I’m going. We know how to play with each other and try different things. All it takes is a little look, or a word here and there. So we pushed each other to be more daring. Like in the climactic scene [towards the end] where Virginia confronts Escobar and asks him for $80,000 to leave the country and make a new life, and he responds by threatening her physically. That confidence that we have in each other is a great thing.

Had the two of you done sex scenes on screen before?

Yes, in Bigas Luna’s “Jamon Jamon.” which won the Silver Lion at the Venice festival in 1992 and launched both of our careers.

Since then, both of your careers have flourished in Hollywood. To the point where you are dubbed by a regular Spanish dubbing actor, just like Tom Cruise. Would you like to work more with Spanish directors, besides Fernando Leon de Aranoa? What is your rapport with the Spanish film industry?

I want to work more with the Spanish industry, but they think I’m too expensive. What I want to tell them is: I’m expensive; but I can also be less expensive, if I like the project.

 

More Film

  • Sundance Lineup Heavy on Famous Names

    Sundance Lineup Heavy on Famous Names and Subjects

    Indie producers usually don’t have the luxury, or inclination, to adapt a Disney theme park ride or Marvel comic into a film. Their closest to sure box office bets, aside from low-budget horror fare, now appear to be projects with pre-sold themes and subjects that are often based on celebrities — the indie world’s version [...]

  • Erik Prince

    Film Based on Blackwater Founder Erik Prince in Works at Imperative Entertainment

    Imperative Entertainment is producing “Prince of War,” which focuses on the controversial life of Erik Prince, an ex-Navy SEAL and founder of the private military contracting firm Blackwater. “The Drop” helmer Michael R. Roskam will direct the film. The script will be based on Prince’s 2009 book “Civilian Warriors” and Adam Ciralsky’s 2009 Vanity Fair [...]

  • Black Panther Movie

    U.S. Movie Ticket Sales Rebounded 5.5% in 2018

    U.S. movie admissions rebounded 5.5% last year to 1.3 billion, a year after posting the lowest admissions number since 1995, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has reported. North American box office for the year surged 6.9% to $11.85 billion, NATO said Wednesday. That figure was in line with the estimate released at the [...]

  • Oscar Nomination for Short Film 'Detainment'

    Oscar Nomination for Short Film 'Detainment' Sparks Backlash in Britain

    Oscar-nominated short film “Detainment,” about a notorious real-life child abduction and murder, has sparked outrage in Britain from the victim’s mother and from thousands of petitioners demanding that the Academy Award nod be rescinded. The 30-minute film centers on the 1993 killing of 2-year-old James Bulger, one of the most shocking criminal cases in modern British [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron's 'Roma' Companion Album to

    Alfonso Cuarón's New 'Roma' Album to Feature Beck, Patti Smith, El-P, T Bone Burnett

    Not to be outdone by Ariana Grande’s impending record news, filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón has announced the track list and release date for his new album, which, coincidentally, is also due Feb. 8. He’s the curator of “Music Inspired by the Film Roma,” which was already teased by a Billie Eilish track, and is now revealed [...]

  • The Beach Bum Trailer

    Watch: Matthew McConaughey Stars in Groovy New 'The Beach Bum' Trailer

    Matthew McConaughey takes on new levels of drug use in the latest trailer for “The Beach Bum.” True to the film’s title, the trailer opens on a trashy beach town stage where McConaughey’s character Moondog is waiting to accept some sort of musical award. “Before I accept whatever award it is they’re giving me today, [...]

  • SAG Awards Placeholder

    SAG Awards Unveils Presenters After Accusing Academy of 'Intimidation'

    The SAG Awards has unveiled its first round of presenters, including Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Rami Malek, Chadwick Boseman, Adam Driver, Sam Elliott, and Constance Wu. Wednesday’s announcement comes two weeks after SAG-AFTRA accused the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of intimidation in trying to limit actors from presenting on awards shows other [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content