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‘That’s brave’: Bardem on Iran’s Farhadi making a Spanish film

When Iranian director Asghar Farhadi told Javier Bardem that he wanted to make a film in Spanish set in Spain, the Oscar-winning actor says he “was like really? OK, that’s brave”.

But the Spanish star says the result — “Everybody Knows”, which will open Cannes film festival on Tuesday — is “more Spanish than many Spanish movies made in Spain!”

Farhadi’s “A Separation” and “The Salesman” both won foreign language Oscars, but it was his 2014 French feature “The Past” that changed Bardem’s mind.

“When I saw ‘The Past’ and I understood he can do it,” the 49-year-old actor said in an interview in Paris.

Up for the Cannes’ top Palme d’Or prize, “Everybody Knows” is a psychological thriller about a wedding in a small town that is turned upside down by a family tragedy.

Bardem stars alongside his wife and fellow Oscar-winner Penelope Cruz, their ninth film together and second in a row after last year’s “Escobar”.

He says their latest film together was different from another set in Spain, Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”.

“Woody Allen’s movie is about cliches, about what the foreign tourists are looking for, they go to Barcelona for that,” Bardem says.

“But Asghar is a different game… he’s very realistic.

“I smell Spain,” in Farhadi’s film, he adds.

“I believe in that country, that city, those people. They speak like that.”

He says he and Cruz had some input about the Spanish: “Mostly we brought things about the language, about the complexity of the sentences.”

But he adds that the Iranian director “knew a lot” and the film was “99 percent” his.

And it had all the ingredients of “a Farhadi movie”.

“Usually his stories are very nice, simple, open-hearted people under very strong circumstances, conflicts,” Bardem says.

“But in this case… there is a thriller aspect that makes you want to know more what is going on and keeps you at the edge of the seat.”

– Juggling acting and marriage –

Bardem says it was a coincidence that he and Cruz starred in two movies together in a row.

“We did ‘Escobar’ and then we did this movie, one after the other. We were like OK, stop. Let’s stop for a second. But they are also different, and the roles are different.”

But he says acting together did make family life simpler for the couple, who married in 2010 and have two children.

“That part is great. That’s way easier than the opposite, because the opposite — like me in China and her in Australia — we’re like, what do we do with the kids?”

But he adds that “you have to make a divided line” between “what is fiction and what is reality”.

“We rehearse with the directors and we talk about it, but once we get home, none of that is discussed.”

Bardem won the best actor award at Cannes in 2010 for “Biutiful”, but says he’s had “ups and downs” at the festival.

He says that “No Country for Old Men”, for which he later received an Oscar, was well received at the festival — but adds that it “didn’t get any award by the way”.

“And also I’ve been booed,” for 2016’s “The Last Face”, he says, “a movie that is considered one of the worst movies in the festival’s history, which I have to say that I don’t disagree.

“It’s a great honour to open such an amazing festival with a movie with Asghar Farhadi. But also it’s a risk, it’s scary, it’s a responsibility.”