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Q&A With Javier Bardem

The Spanish actor digs deeply into his character, Uxbal, the protagonist of <i>Biutiful</i>

En españolQ. What does this film say about conditions in Spain today?

A. It’s not really only about Spain, but every other major city in the world; it could be New York, Paris. The scenario of the situation [is that] there is an immigrant community, and they are living very harshly, and in some cases they are used like slaves. This could happen in a lot of places in the world, and is happening, actually.

Q. What’s your process? How do you get in touch with a character like this?

A. This role has an emotional release, in a very emotional way. [He laughs.] There is no way you can do it by coming in and coming out. You have to be the role itself. It was five months of shooting, which made it difficult. There are certain roles [in which] there is no way to play them without becoming them, being in a place emotionally and psychologically that is not your place anymore. Alejandro [González Iñárritu,the director] and I like to go to the bone, and we did.

Q. You’re about to become a new father. What did you learn about being a dad from your role in Biutiful?

A. The relationship with the kids in the movie is where the heart of the movie belongs. For a man, it’s about how important it is to feed them, but once he’s facing what he’s facing he realizes they also need empathy, compassion — and that’s something for all of us to learn. Beyond feeding them physically, he has to feed them emotionally. We all need the same things — empathy, compassion, affection — and I think this movie shows that to us in a number of ways.

Q. What do you want the audience to get from this film?

A. I would like one thing that I know happens, because I’ve been there at the screenings and seen the reaction: They’re going to remind themselves and the ones they love how important it is to not be alone in this world. And how lucky we are, even in hard situations, to have someone close to us. And how important it is to remind that person how important it is to be close to you.