Javier Bardem On His Monstrous Roles

The “Dark Universe” is moving full speed ahead as Universal’s answer to Marvel’s and DC’s superhero franchises. Without its own traditional superheroes, however, Universal is relying on its infamous monster properties to drive a connected franchise that should look a good deal different from what we’ve grown used to. Spring’s remake of The Mummy was an iffy beginning to the concept, but the next few projects on the slate are considerably more interesting.

Those projects are The Invisible Man and, even before that, Bride Of Frankenstein. Javier Bardem has boarded the franchise for the latter, and will play the legendary role of Frankenstein’s monster. Some view him as a perfect fit. And yet, when you think about this monster on the silver screen, he’s actually quite different – and his typical monster visage may be decidedly more human than what classic Frankenstein fans expect.

If you’ve never seen Boris Karloff’s performance – inarguably the most famous cinematic example of Frankenstein’s monster – you would do well to dig up the old black-and-white film. Though if you merely want a glimpse, the same film has actually been turned into a pretty accessible online game thanks to a deal with Universal Pictures. Said to have a “real cinematic feel” to it, it displays exact likenesses of Karloff’s version of the monster. It depicts him, as did the film itself, as a pale, block-headed, and zombie-like creature, and quite a disconcerting one at that!

Because of his previous roles as terrible villains, Bardem is easy to imagine in a generally Frankenstein-ish role. But the actual image of Karloff is so different from just about any other movie villain or monster, it makes one wonder how the actor will play the part (and how he’ll be made up to look). For some evidence on how the movie will come across, I turned to some of Bardem’s own comments on his aforementioned monstrous roles.

The first takeaway is that as many might suspect, Bardem is likely to do whatever it takes to bring the character to life from a purely visual standpoint. Speaking seemingly on the idea that he’s known for “continental good looks,” Bardem once said that “your work cannot come from your vanity,” which is to say he will not be concerned with how he looks or how he’s perceived, so long as the role is done right. Bardem said this specifically with regard to his often-compared parts as Chigurh in No Country For Old Men and Silva in Skyfall. In both roles, Bardem was a twisted and unappealing beast of a man.

It’s also apparent that Bardem will rely deeply on the script and his character’s back story to craft the performance side of the monstrous nature. Many have compared Chigurh and Silva, and even accused Bardem of limiting himself to similar roles. But from his perspective the characters appear to be quite different. Bardem described Chigurh as “a statement of violence in the world, more of an idea,” which shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s read the original novel by Cormac McCarthy, on which No Country For Old Men is based. Speaking about Silva, he’s made it clear that the character’s evil is more personal, the result of individual anguish. In other words, there’s care put into these portrayals, and Bardem’s Frankenstein will be based on a new script.

These are simple comments, but they should keep us interested in Bardem’s portrayal. The standard for Frankenstein on screen is high – a horrifying undead monster that hardly looks human. Bardem has shown that he can portray a similar part. But it’s quite clear at this point that any assumptions about how he’ll look or how he’ll act are probably premature. This will be an original character based on an old one.