Javier Bardem: Getting Paid Is a 'Biutiful' Thing
But sometimes the digits on the checks look skimpy. Asked by WalletPop how he weighs a film's merit vs. his salary, the 41-year-old star of the December release Biutiful said, "Usually the movies that you like are the ones that pay you nothing. Let's put it that way. The ones you go crazy about, they don't pay you what you'd like to be paid. But in general, I don't care, because I think that I have a job, I have a living, a good living but not luxurious living. I can feed my people. I can feed myself. I have a good roof. That's all that I can ask."Seeing many struggle through harsh times provides additional perspective, Bardem added in this recent interview at a New York City hotel.
Bardem, last seen as Julia Roberts' beau in Eat Pray Love, has reasons for being more conscious of the bottom line these days. His wife, Oscar winner Penelope Cruz, is expecting their first child in January.
He probably won't have a tough time finding work. Raised in Spain among a family of actors, he is now counted as one of the world's most reliable box-office performers. Our sister site Forbes.com placed him at No. 6 on its list of Best Actors for the Buck in 2009, estimating that he generated $73 in profit for every dollar spent by the filmmakers. That was on the strength of Vicky Cristina Barcelona (in which he and Cruz kindled their off-screen romance), Love in the Time of Cholera and No Country for Old Men. A role as a serial killer in the latter earned him an Academy Award for best supporting actor.
In the Spanish-language Biutiful, directed and co-written by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel), Bardem plays a dying Barcelona hustler with two kids to support. Presumably the actor's pay didn't break the producers' bank, and he enhanced their investment by winning best actor at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
Sometimes the projects with the smallest paychecks generate the biggest dividends, he pointed out. Bardem was an unknown outside of Spain when American director Julian Schnabel tapped him to portray Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas in 2000's Before Night Falls. He explained that the agreement was about the director's trust, not the money. Bardem received a best actor Academy Award nomination and rose to global stardom. "One movie allows you to go someplace where people can see, 'Oh yeah, he can do that,' " he said.
That's why when the payday pales, the actor often shrugs. "Doing what you like and getting paid for it is enough."