Preview by: Jack Foley
SPANISH actor, Javier Bardem, has consistently appeared in some
of the best films of recent years, earning rave review after rave
review and award after award.
From his Oscar nominated turn in Before Night Falls through to
his eye-catching Hollywood turns in John Malkovich's superb, The
Dancer Upstairs, or Michael Mann's Collateral,
he has consistently impressed.
His latest, directed by Alejandro Amenábar (of The
Others fame), finds him starring as a quadrapelegic who wishes
to die by euthanasia.
The film is based on the profoundly moving true story of Spaniard,
Ramón Sampedro, who fought a 30-year campaign to win the
right to end his life with dignity.
It centres on his relationships with two women: Julia (Belén
Rueda) a lawyer who supports his cause, and Rosa (Lola Dueñas),
a local woman who wants to convince him that life is worth living.
Bardem has already won widespread acclaim for his portrayal of
Ramón and the film is performing very well on the festival
circuit, ahead of its US release on December 17 (in New York and
The film won the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Venice
Film Festival, with Bardem taking the Coppa Volpi for Best
Such was its success at Venice, Fine Line, the specialty division
of New Line, has opted to release the film in America before the
year ends so that it can qualify for awards consideration in the
The film also marks another directorial triumph for Amenabar,
who was also responsible for Spanish hit, Abre los Ojos (which
Cameron Crowe remade as Vanilla
Sky), given that he also co-wrote, edited and scored the film.
And he had no doubts about casting
Bardem in the lead role, stating: "I think that Javier is
the best actor Spain has ever produced. I offered him the part
and told him he could back out whenever he wished."
Far from backing out, however, Bardem immersed himself in the
project, speaking to family members and the people closest to
"And they all said the same thing - he was a very happy
person," he explained.
"He was actually the kind of person that you would pay a
visit to in order to cheer yourself up. As an actor, I thought
it was a risky thing to work with: a man who wants to die but
at the same time is always smiling."
Bardem also read Ramón's two books, Letters From Hell
(collected writings) and Cando eu Caia (poetry), watched documentary
footage and studied the Galician language.
And he also went to a hospital where they were treating people
with similar disabilities.
"I spent time with them trying to figure out how not to
move," says Bardem. "Which is very hard to do; it's
easier to move.
"But it was something I really wanted to work with, because
I consider myself a very physical actor; I always put body language
into my characters because I think it's very important the way
we reveal ourselves through our unconscious movements. My big
goal was to relax, and to try to express the motions with the
voice and the eyes."
At the hospital, Bardem also learned that Ramón had difficulty
breathing, as he wasn't able to move his diaphragm.
"That gave me a perspective on how to play him," says
Bardem, "because a man who can't breath well is a man who
has to talk very fast and be very precise in what he says - he
doesn't have time to waste.
"Also, since I'm quite big and bulky, we had to find the
right position to hide my shoulders by keeping my back in a bent
A physiotherapist was subsequently hired to prepare a special
pillow for the actor, which allowed him to keep his back in the
The preparation for the role, however, has paid off, with critics
hailing The Sea Inside as a near masterpiece for both Bardem and