Javier Bardem on “Goya’s Ghosts”

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By Dan Persons

IFC News

[Photo: Javier Bardem in “Goya’s Ghosts,” Samuel Goldwyn Films, 2007]

It’s a good year for bad deeds, particularly if you’re Javier Bardem. Not only is he receiving praise for his portrayal of Anton Chigurh, a near-mythic hit man in the upcoming Coen brothers film “No Country for Old Men,” he also takes center stage as an Inquisition-era priest who doesn’t mind shifting convictions to accommodate the prevailing winds in Milos Forman’s historical epic, “Goya’s Ghosts,” opening this week.

When you’re approached by American producers, are there any special criteria you use in evaluating those roles?

I think it’s that same as I do in Spain: Would I be interested in watching this story as an audience [member]? If I’m touched by the story — because I think the most important thing is the storytelling — then I do it. I don’t really pay too much attention to who’s behind it. Of course, if who’s behind it is Milos Forman or the Coens, that helps. But at the end, when we have movies that we like so much, we remember the stories.

Is there an aspect of exploration that you need as well?

Once you get there, if the author of that story is telling you something you want to explore, then you take a good look at the role and see if the role helps you to explore that situation, or if it’s a passive character that doesn’t do that much. The insight, for example, in “Goya’s Ghosts” helps you to say, “Okay, I want to take the journey to see what’s behind those lines, what’s behind that man.” And maybe I’m lucky to find something for myself.

The character you play in “Goya’s Ghosts,” Brother Lorenzo, is quite the opportunist, isn’t he?

Yeah, totally. I saw him as a victim. I saw him as a victim of the totalitarian regimes that happened in that moment in history, — Inquisition or French revolution, whether it’s in the name of God or in the name of human civil rights — what [the regimes] were doing was trying to gather power, power through fear. In those moments, I think those regimes create people like Brother Lorenzo, who go so radical because they need to make [others] believe that they are true believers.

Are his actions out of desperation?

Not desperation, but fear. Fear of losing what he has become, fear of losing what he dreams of being in the future, which is being on the top, being close to the high priest or the king. It’s like he thinks of himself as being a grandiose person, and everything that [stands] in the middle of that journey, that achievement, has to be destroyed.

In fact, the overarching theme of “Goya’s Ghosts” is how people trim their moralities to fit the temper of their times.

I think the ethical point of this movie is that ethics are something that people hold inside, they’re not something you can be taught by any statement or any system. You either have it, or you don’t. It appears that my character is the most ethical of all, but in reality he’s the opposite. While Goya, who is just a witness and cannot step forward because then he would be punished, is the most ethical of all. His ethics are his paintings — that’s where he really makes justice. He’s fair with the human race, putting what he sees in there for people not to forget, ever.

What connected you to this story?

The history. The fact that Milos Forman came to Spain and wanted to portray a time when beautiful Spain was like a raped country, where everybody was coming in and abusing [it]. I liked the idea… and also I have this relationship with the Catholic Church that I want to explore. I was raised in the Catholic Church and I have my problems with it. That’s how I chose [Brother Lorenzo’s] voice — it’s a risky voice, but I saw, when I was little, when the Franco regime was coming to an end, I was five, I was six — I saw many of these people speaking with this beautiful voice about being at peace, while acting exactly the opposite. Those things were engraved in my mind: How can you say one thing and do the opposite?

In a number of your roles, you’ve come to explore many gradations of evil. Have you come to understand it any better?

Maybe with the Coens. There was a moment where I felt numb. It’s not that I was overtaken by the role, but I felt numb. When I was doing the role, I had a lot of free time, and I remember watching the news and seeing the horror that is going on out there, and I felt numb. And I said to myself, “Well, now I am dangerous.” I guess that has to do with the evil-minded — they feel numb, they don’t feel emotionally attached to others. That’s why they can make these decisions of killing.

Wanna go back there again?

No. No, no, no, no. I was so happy when I left those characters, especially Anton.

“Goya’s Ghosts” opens in New York, Los Angeles and other cities on July 20, expanding on August 3 (official site).

Other recent interviews on IFC News: Danny Boyle talks “Sunshine,” sex in space and sci-fi fundamentalism here; Steve Buscemi discusses directing and starring in “Interview” here.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.