Javier Bardem has made a name for himself as an actor in the U.S. after getting his start in Spain. Coming from a long line of actors in his family, the career always appealed to him, but he never saw his crossover to the United States coming.
LISTEN NOW: Javier Bardem says AC/DC helped him learn English: Listen now
“My two biggest movies that really opened the [U.S.] market to me in Spain were accidental,” he told Conan O’Brien during a recent episode of O’Brien’s podcast. “One, Jamón, Jamón, I was accompanying my sister to the audition and I was sitting down near her and they asked me, ‘Do you want to come in and do an audition?’ And I said, ‘No, I don’t want to,’ [then they said], ‘OK, come in,’ and they gave me the job.”
All signs continued to point Bardem to the American film scene as another “meant to be” opportunity fell in his lap, even though he didn’t see it as such at the time.
“The other one, Before Night Falls, with Julian Schnabel, I met him at a party in New York and he said, ‘Would you like to make a movie in English?’ And I was like, ‘No, I don’t want to, I don’t speak English.’ He said, ‘Why don’t you try to read this and I was going to play this little role and I said, ‘OK, I’ll try it. I’ll play that as an experiment,’ But then the person that was going to play the lead fell apart from the project and [Schnebl] said, ‘Will you do it?’ And I said, ‘No, I don’t want to do it.’ And he said, ‘Yes, you are doing it. You have a month.’”
Having one month to learn English would be a difficult task for anyone, however Bardem says he was able to do it thanks to an iconic Rock band.
“All the cursing, all the bad words, everything I learned from AC/DC — F*** yeah! And I’m still learning,” he laughed. “There’s a song called, “If You want Blood (You’ve Got It),” "High Voltage,” “Let There Be Rock,” those were the first songs [I learned].”
He continued, “You have to understand that I’m 54, I had tapes, I would open the tapes and get lyrics would be in Spanish, they weren’t translated. So, for me, it was like, ‘What is he saying?’ Because they were not singing in Spanish. So I was trying to make sense of the word in Spanish and what I was hearing and then I would look to a dictionary, and then, because of that, I would learn that word, on top of the word below. AC/DC made me learn English because I wanted to learn the lyrics.”
The technique worked for Bardem, who later — to his disbelief— received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor from that movie.
“I did it, but I never expected that anybody would watch that movie and it happened that I was nominated for an Oscar for it, which is weird because I thought, ‘Nobody is going to watch it. Who cares? I’m just going to see if I can play in English.”
Bardem has continued to see success in even bigger roles including Raoul Silva in the 2012 James Bond film, Skyfall as well as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men. His most recent is King Triton in 2023’s The Little Mermaid.
Hear more about his most recent roles and upbringing by tuning into the latest episode of The Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend podcast.
The Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend podcast features host, Conan O’Brien as he seeks deep, long-lasting friendships with celebrity guests. With nothing off limits and no rules to follow the weekly podcasts are sure to entertain with new guests each week.
LISTEN on the Audacy App
Sign up and follow Audacy
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram