As Captain Salazar, Javier Bardem plays one of the most treacherous villains in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Salazar was once a powerful Spanish captain who hunted down pirates, but who is tricked by a young Jack Sparrow and sent to a watery demonic grave. Forever cursed as a ghost, Salazar has always wanted revenge against Jack.

ScreenPicks sat in a conversation with Bardem about portraying his character and embodying the rage within.

Q: The Spanish fleet were a big part of hunting pirates on the open seas, so I loved how your character ties into that.

Javier Bardem: One of the things I like the most is to research, and to start getting crazy with the ideas, and then … Yeah, so they were very strong at the time, but also, they were from the south of Spain. That gave me the idea of, okay, south of Spain, the flavor, the flamingo, which is I want to sing flamingo, but the accent and also this thing about the bull. The raging bull. Then everything made sense for me. Coming from the beginning of being the Spanish army guy.

Q: The character work is always in everything that you do, but talk about dealing with the supernatural aspect of his circumstance.

JB: The makeup was real makeup, so that was three hours long, which is not long, for such a great job. Then the hair was long too, but I didn’t know if I was going to look like after I saw the movie, when I saw it I was very blown away by it. Also how much it adjusts to the performance, because they were telling me, “Don’t worry about all that, you do your thing and then we’ll adjust.” It’s true that when I move on the run because on the rage. I didn’t move like that because of her. It’s great.

The first day we were going to shoot I was going to shoot with Geoffrey, that scene. They gave me this liquid to bare my teeth, my rotten teeth. I said, “No, fuck that.” I drank it. Because I though it was better to have this black liquid coming out of his mouth. It’s not blood, it’s rage. When you see … I’m not a huge fan of bull fighting myself — when you see the animal suffering on the arena, the blood is almost dark. We know the blood is dark, but the bull’s is black, almost black. I like the idea that it’s pouring out of his mouth, that the rage of being wounded. Yes, I did the scene and he was not expecting that, I guess I spit in his face a little bit. You play with him. He’s not in the mood, play with it. I call it monkey poop because I was trying to find a name for it and there was no such thing. Fucking, whatever. The monkey poop. It’s the monkey poo. Make it monkey liquid poo. It tastes bad. You do it for the art.

Q: Did Penelope Cruz (Bardem’s real-life wife and former POTC player) have any good advice for your big debut for this scale and movie before you started?

JB: Yeah, when I was on the set of On Stranger Tides the detail of the production was so incredible so I knew it was going to be a great ride. She told me, you’re going to have fun. You won’t have a problem when you work with Johnny because he’s going to make you laugh. It’s true. It’s not like he wants to make you laugh, you laugh because of the character. Because you are a movie-goer you think you know the character for so long, and then he’s talking to you normally and boom! All of a sudden he becomes this guy and here he is. You go, “Wow!” Everything he does and says is brilliant because he’s prospective and he really can be very funny. In the first two days I have to say, “Sorry, I have to cut.” Because I was laughing, so she was right. He will never let you down. He likes jokes though. He likes to joke. To put people in situations, like funny situations. He didn’t put me in any one but I heard. It’s always based on allowing in a respectful way.

He’s very, very bright in the things that he puts together for the people — I guess he learned that Brando Marlon. Brando will put a fart machine under the pillow on … Like he will start to fart and people will think it was him. Also the other day saw the reunion about the Godfather in New York at the movie festival. They were telling in the scene of the Godfather when they are bringing the bed with the Godfather to the room in the hospital, he put weights. Brando put 200 kilos of weights without telling anyone. Everyone was like, “Wah!” He didn’t tell anyone. That’s great. Unless you oppose to the heir, I am the Godfather.

Q: How to you balance the big-budget movies and small passion projects?

JB: I’m gifted, blessed, by the chance of doing both kinds movies. Yeah, you do these kinds of movies also because of a paycheck. Helps you to keep on doing other movies that you know you’ll be paid in two years. That’s not the only reason we making movies like this, not for me. Otherwise, how do you defend it? How do you starve for it, if it’s only for the money? We all want money. We all need money, but in this case, you can’t put yourself in things just for money because you are not going to be able to perform. In this case it was about the joy of belonging to the franchise and bringing this animal to screen, creating a balance between the pain, the real pain, and the joy of bringing to the Disney movie. Have to be a balance, and that’s a challenge I guess. To answer you question I think that, I don’t get married to one style of movie making. I’m an actor. I do this, I do that. I just want to keep on working, that’s all.

Q: Were you looking forward to joining a Disney movie? What is it that made you say, “I want to do a pirates movie?”

JB: Pirates beyond this one in the late years so that’s something that, when I was in make-up and it was hot and I have the wardrobe and you have a long wait because … In any movie you have to wait for a movie like this when they say, “Okay, now let’s move the boat.” Okay. Then, six hours to move the boat. You go like, “Oh my God.” Then you say, “Hold on a second, I’m doing a pirate movie. Enjoy it!” When it comes to rolling, enjoy it. There’s not many chances to play like this. To play something like this. That’s something you have to remind yourself.

Q: Did you have fun doing the sword stuff?

JB: Yeah, I loved it. Thomas DuPont is the teacher. He’s not a teacher, he’s a sword master. Just the name, Thomas DuPont… It’s a great name. Very hot looking guy. He was very strong and muscular with a long pony tail. It’s like pirate I guess, like a real pirate. He taught me for a month, which is great. God, I’m so clumsy. Then he made the impossible. He made me learn how to move a sword. It’s all about choreography. It’s dangerous; you have to really be careful because those things can hurt.

Q: What are the sorts of things you are always mindful of when you are playing this character?

JB: The idea of how painful rage is. Rage it brings pain to the one who suffers it. Emotional and physical pain. I wanted to create this person who is taking my pain. Then there’s a chance of bringing out of his own place, his own curse. Then there’s sudden joy by stills, something that is painful. To watch, as well as know it’s in a movie. That’s why I was saying before, to bring it out.

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