As Raoul Silva, actor Javier Bardem gives us one of the most unforgettable and nastiest of Bond villains in the 007 movie “Skyfall.” But unlike many Bond villains who are bent on world domination, Silva is far more interested in seeking revenge on one of the series’ regular characters. It should be no surprise that Bardem can play such an unnerving character to a great extent as he won an Oscar for playing Anton Chigurh in “No Country for Old Men,” but it’s the actor’s attention to character which makes his performance as Silva especially riveting.
For Bardem, it doesn’t matter whether the characters he plays are good or bad. What matters to him is that he is able to portray the character as a full blooded human being with flaws and all.
“As long as there’s a human being behind the character, with some kind of conflict, as we all have, then it’s interesting to play anyone, whether it’s a villain, good guy, bald, long hair, tall or short,” says Bardem.
“Here there is a broken person,” Bardem continued. “What I like the most is there is a clear motive to kill. We understand he is very human and this is powerful. I was attracted to the villain because I thought he was a nice guy. I could see it in his eyes.”
In talking with “Skyfall’s” director Sam Mendes, Bardem was told that the key word regarding Silva was “uncomfortableness.” This is a character that lives to make the skins of his opponents crawl, and the actor portrays that so brilliantly here.
“I don’t want him to be someone that threatens somebody, that’s threatening to someone. It’s about creating a very uncomfortable situation every time he talks to somebody else,” Bardem said.
There has also been a lot of talk regarding Silva’s sexuality as many wonder if this is the Bond’s franchise first gay villain. In a perfect world this question would be completely irrelevant as good and bad comes in all sorts of forms, but many still can’t help but be curious. Bardem ended up using that ambiguity of Silva to his advantage.
“The character’s sexuality was part of the game,” Bardem said. “Sexuality was there as something important to create the behavior of being uncomfortable. From ‘uncomfortableness’ we brought the sense of humor.”
Bardem went on to describe Silva as being “really confident about himself in a weird way” and that he thinks of himself as “the most beautiful man in the world.” The actor also explained that while he wanted to make this particular Bond villain unique, he was also fully aware that these movies were made with the fans of them in mind.
“You have to work on two different levels,” Bardem said. “One is to make him as real as possible. And the other is to fly a little bit higher than the rest of the characters. You are allowed to do that. Because that is what people are expecting to see when you play a Bond villain, especially since the films are turning 50 years old.”
Mendes himself went on to talk about how playing a Bond villain allows actors to create unusual kinds of characters.
“Doing a Bond movie affords you that kind of flamboyance that you can’t get in purely naturalistic movies,” said Mendes. “As an actor, you get an opportunity to do things that, frankly, are hovering a foot above the ground. They’re not rooted in reality. Javier always has a slight theatricality about him, which we just tweaked in this movie.”
The James Bond movie franchise is now fifty years old, but “Skyfall” makes it suddenly feel like it is brand new or reborn. A lot of that is thanks to Mendes as well as the actors, and it says a lot about Javier Bardem that he has created one of the most memorable villains this series has ever seen. Raoul Silva is far from your usual one-dimensional bad guy, but who is instead a man who has been wronged and is actually justified in seeking revenge for what has been done to him. As a result this character has more layers to him than your usual Bond villain, and Bardem more than rises to the challenge in making him one of the more complex bad guys you will ever see in a movie.
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Bryan Alexander, “Javier Bardem gets in Bond’s head as ‘Skyfall’ villain,” USA Today, November 7, 2012.
Alexandra Gratereaux, “Javier Bardem on Being James Bond ‘Skyfall’ Villain: He’s a Broken Person,” Fox News Latino, November 8, 2012.
Jake Coyle, “Javier Bardem In ‘Skyfall’: James Bond Villain For The Ages?,” The Huffington Post, October 23, 2012.