Bar­dem ful­fills long­time wish in ‘Pablo’

For years, ac­tor has sought fresh take on fe­ro­cious car­tel boss

USA TODAY US Edition - - LIFE - An­drea Man­dell

Strong cof­fee is a must by Day 5 of the Toronto Film Fes­ti­val.

Javier Bar­dem fixes him­self an espresso in­side a suite at the Four Sea­sons. The star flew here di­rectly from the Venice Film Fes­ti­val and has two hot projects in the mix: Darren Aronof­sky’s hor­ror film mother! (in the­aters Fri­day) and Lov­ing Pablo, a Pablo Es­co­bar tale he stars in and pro­duced.

Bar­dem is right there with the rest of us still reel­ing from the au­da­cious insanity that hap­pens on­screen in mother! But his wife, Pené­lope Cruz, has yet to take it in.

“I’m dy­ing for her to see it,” says Bar­dem, 48, not­ing that Cruz is back in Madrid work­ing on Ev­ery­thing Knows, the cou­ple’s up­com­ing thriller di­rected by As­ghar Farhadi. “Me? I saw

it for the first time fin­ished in Venice with 3,000 peo­ple. I was like, ‘What the hell?!’ ”

Pulpy re­al­ism takes cen­ter stage in Lov­ing Pablo, Bar­dem’s Es­co­bar project that’s been a long time com­ing. For years, the Span­ish star has been chas­ing a fresh take on the fe­ro­cious car­tel boss, as TV projects like Nar­cos have moved in to fill the space.

“With all due re­spect to ev­ery­thing that has been done, es­pe­cially on TV, I al­ways felt like that this story, this char­ac­ter, de­served a big scope, a big screen,” he says.

Bar­dem landed on Lov­ing Pab-

lo (which is for sale at the fes­ti­val), a film based on Lov­ing Pablo, Hat­ing Es­co­bar, the book writ­ten by the Medel­lín car­tel drug lord’s mis­tress, Vir­ginia Vallejo, about their re­la­tion­ship. Cruz joins her hus­band on­screen as the glam­orous, in­creas­ingly des­per­ate TV per­son­al­ity. Bar­dem and Cruz have pre­vi­ously co-starred in films like Jamón, Jamón and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but “this is the first time we did some­thing to­gether be­ing a cou­ple, which is a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence than be­fore,” he says.

In the film, the two don’t shy away from the per­sonal, shar­ing steamy love scenes and dra­matic fights. But the fa­mous cou­ple, who mar­ried in 2010 and have two chil­dren, did their best to leave Es­co­bar at work.

“We made kind of a deal (and had a) very clear di­vided line be­tween fic­tion and re­al­ity,” says Bar­dem, who strapped on a pros­thetic belly to get the phys­i­cal­ity of his mer­cu­rial drug lord right.

And then, of course, there’s mother! It’s grin-in­duc­ing to swap the­o­ries with Bar­dem about the al­le­gories hid­den in the bizarre bi­b­li­cal tale. Some have the­o­rized that Aronof­sky took an au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal look at his re­la­tion­ship with fame through Bar­dem’s char­ac­ter, a fa­mous poet known as “Him,” who’s mar­ried to an in­no­cent played by Jen­nifer Lawrence.

“Darren is the op­po­site of my char­ac­ter,” says Bar­dem. “He’s more into Jen­nifer’s char­ac­ter than my char­ac­ter. When I met him, I was like, ‘Where is this dark­ness com­ing from?’ Be­cause he is the op­po­site of that. He’s nice, car­ing, gen­er­ous, funny, very cre­ative.

“But then I saw when he works, he doesn’t ex­pect any­thing more than per­fec­tion,” he says. “He is re­lent­less.”

TORONTO IN­TER­NA­TIONAL FILM FES­TI­VAL

In Lov­ing Pablo, Javier Bar­dem’s real-life wife, Pené­lope Cruz, plays Pablo Es­co­bar’s fa­mous TV-per­son­al­ity mis­tress.

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