In this interview, Javier Bardem talks about getting into character, researching the role, and working with director Alejandro Amenabar:
INTERVIEW WITH JAVIER BARDEM ('Ramon Sampedro'):
Did you go through a lengthy make-up process?
Yeah, five or six hours every day. I’d go there five o’clock in the morning, I’d start shooting [at] 11am until 10pm.
Was most of the makeup on your face?
All of it. There was only one piece, which was the nose. The rest was like a liquid to age the skin.
Did that help you get into character?
A lot. …You are always concerned about the makeup work, especially when you are going to do a character movie instead of an action movie. [If you] are you going to be this [type] all the time, you’d better find a good person. Jo Allen is an amazing makeup artist and she did this amazing job. And when I saw it, I felt very comfortable. I felt like she did 50% of my character.
Did you ever accidentally move?
If I say no, that will sound very awkward, so I will say yes, but no, actually. Sometimes when scenes are long, when I have to be like that, sometimes the tension [is hard]. But also, they have this response, involuntary response and sometimes they have spasms.
How did you train your body to be so still?
You just breathe and relax and let the body weight into the bed. Put the whole energy up in the voice and in the look and try to focus on the words, instead of the actions. It’s not like you do action in an action movie. If I’m talking like this, I’m doing an action which is moving my hand. So talking without doing any action, just being still, it’s a matter of focusing on being very concentrated.
Did Alejandro Amenábar film the accident first?
Yeah, one month before. It was one month before, then we stopped for a month.
And you shaved your head?
Yeah, I shaved my head, I shaved my eyebrows. It was really weird.
Were you able to train yourself to write with your mouth?
I tried but I couldn’t. I tried for three months but finally I was able to write down my name. The tension, the muscular tension of the face is huge.
It doesn’t feel like a regional movie, but are there particularly Spanish elements to the film?
Yes, a lot. I mean, there are three different languages going on, three different dialogues going on at the same time. But here, you cannot tell. I think it is the first time that it has shown very seriously what Calician is, which is a part of Spain that not so many people know because it’s very non-Spanic. It’s like more Celtic, more [of an] island kind of place. The people who come from Calicia are very happy because they saw in the family characters, especially, how well they were treated. And the humor I would say is very Spanish. It’s more than that, it’s very Calician. But you can laugh with that also, but they are very on the edge.
Did Alejandro approach you directly about the project?
Yeah. He gave me the script and he told me to read it and it took me a while to read it. When I read it, I talked to him and we waited for a month to make up our minds. I mean, he made it up because I have to really be secure, be sure that I will be [the] one because it’s so far away. 30 years older, and all that.
Were you familiar with the story at all?
Yes, because in ’98, that image of the title statement was broadcast on TV so that opened a huge debate and I knew it. I knew that news. I’d never met him. And then everybody in Spain knew that case. He was the first European person who went to the European court to ask for his right to die and he was denied.