Javier Bardem confesses that he spent the first few months of 2004 lying on his couch. The Oscar-nominated actor wasn't goofing off watching Golden Girls repeats, though — he was preparing for his role as a quadriplegic in his latest critically acclaimed film, The Sea Inside."I would lie still on the sofa trying to talk to myself and going through different emotional states," Bardem explains. "And then I realized that it wasn't working — I was moving like a maniac. So I would put a camera on myself and say some monologues. I would do that for several hours every day. Then, during the shooting, I had five hours of makeup, plus 10 hours of shooting. So that was 15 hours a day in bed, plus the hour I spent in my bed at home sleeping."
That may sound like more of a vacation than a job, but the mood on the set wasn't particularly lighthearted, due to the story Sea tells. Based on a true story, it follows Ramon Sampedro, a quadriplegic who waged a 30-year court battle to win the right to end his life with dignity.
Performing the part allowed Bardem to contemplate what he would do if he were ever in a similar situation. "I hope not to be, and [my choice] would depend on so many things... how old I am, who are the people that surround me. But if someone who I love asked me and I felt that it was a meditated request, I would help that person, even if it breaks my heart. It's not my life, it is their life."
"For two weeks, I went to the hospital where they treat people with this condition," Bardem continues. "They all know of and respect Ramon, even though they chose to live. They knew how much a person would want to go that way, but they were choosing the other way. That shows me how manipulated we are by some institutions. Even the people in similar circumstances as Ramon are much more tolerant."
Next up for Bardem is another long break. "I'm reading some stuff, but there is nothing on my mind," he says. "I'm not in a rush. I only work every two years. Otherwise, I like to be normal, which is a hard job."And while his Sea performance is attracting Oscar buzz (he was recently nominated for a Golden Globe as well), he's not particularly excited about the campaigning that goes with it. "Awards are great, but in Spain, they are not that important," he shrugs. "Here, they are very important because so many movies open every Friday and you need to put some attention to the one you've made. But to get an award is hard work. I've been here three months already promoting and I'm ready to move on and think about something else."