Javier Bardem with whacked-out hair speaking Cormac McCarthy's words is an intoxicating film cocktail that's being served up again.
Bardem won a supporting-actor Oscar as the follically challenged and mentally deranged hit man Anton Chigurh in 2007'sNo Country for Old Men,based on a McCarthy novel and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.
Now Bardem, 44, enters a similarly bleak world in Ridley Scott'sThe Counselor(opening Friday), McCarthy's first screenplay. But the singular nature of his new character, a nightclub owner, goes far deeper than a unique spiked-hair look.
"InNo Country, I was the hunter - Anton Chigurh is the worst force of destiny you could think of," Bardem says. "Now I am the hunted. In a very different world."
Reiner gets in way over his head with a drug cartel, along with a respected lawyer (Michael Fassbender) engaged to a beautiful woman (Bardem's real-life wife, Penelope Cruz).
"There are links toNo Countryhere," Bardem says. "It's the same author. And there are consequences and lies and human nature at its worst."
When Scott sent Bardem the script forThe Counselor, the actor was immediately inspired to create a look for Reiner that's nearly as outlandish as Chigurh's inNo Country.That meant adopting splashy, expensive clothes, opulent sunglasses ("he changes the color depending on his mood, and it brings a detachment"), and crazy, spiked hair.
"Reiner is a guy who is always trying to sell himself to the rest of the world. He has built a world around him that is fake," Bardem says. "It immediately came with all these images of this guy."
The entire out-there ensemble could boost his critically praised performance come awards season.
"Oscar voters love Javier in weird hairdos, so his freak-out look could get their attention," says Tom O'Neil, founder of the awards website Goldderby.com. "But the movie needs to prove itself a hit first."
Producer Steve Schwartz says Bardem struts his acting chops in the role and is able to "show he can be a comic actor portraying a real love and fear of women." The main woman comes in the form of Reiner's ex-stripper girlfriend, Malkina (Cameron Diaz), who displays her own form of Chigurh-style menace.
"Reiner is a sheep in this werewolf's hands," Bardem says.
The idea of a hunted Reiner is made clear by Malkina's choice of pets - wild cheetahs - which he seems content to deal with, even taking them in his car and pretending that everything's normal.
During filming, Bardem was blown away by the creatures.
"We were told not to make noises and to stand still when they were on set. There were handlers, but these are wild animals," he says. "At one point, someone made a wrong noise, and (the cheetahs) snapped their heads. You could feel everyone go white."
His character's denial of the dangerous world he has entered ends in a memorable scene where Malkina mounts Reiner's Ferrari on a deserted golf course. She takes part in a fascinating show using the windshield in ways the manufacturers probably did not intend. Bardem's expression of fascination and horror from the passenger seat of the explicit dance says it all.
"He realizes how much danger he is in and how little he knows this woman," Bardem says. "As for the expression on his face, that would be every man's look."