Why Playing The Humanity In Pablo Escobar Was Key For Javier Bardem Making Loving Pablo

Javier Bardem as Pablo Escobar smiling in Loving Pablo

While Javier Bardem is no stranger to villain roles, his approach towards the titular antagonist in the new drama Loving Pablo demanded something new. Unlike Anton Chigurh or Raul Silva, Pablo Escobar was an actual person, and though not exactly in the traditional sense, it was a story that required an extra bit of respect. It was a subject that came up when I sat down with the Academy Award winner and asked him about what was most important to him in the making of the movie:

The man, the human being, the darkness of it, and also the light in it - not to justify or excuse him - because he's un-excusable, what he did - but to understand that he's one of us. [What I honed in on is] that we belong to the same human race that he belonged to, and that we have to understand that there is nothing glamorous on iconic about a character like him. We tried to make a portrait of the complexity of a person like him and the world around him. So people, when they see it, they understand that we are responsible somehow, directly or indirectly, to make people like him arise.

Javier Bardem isn't the first actor to portray Pablo Escobar, but in his preparation he told me that he solely focused on the work and the real man instead of the choices of other performers. Diving deep into the project and the character, Bardem decided it was of utmost importance to him that the material not be a glamorization of Escobar's life, but instead a stark representation of who he was, featured in a story that fully demonstrates the consequences of the many horrific choices that he made in his lifetime.

Pablo Escobar, of course, is one of the most notorious drug kingpins in history, operating from mid-1970s to the early 1990s. His home base established in Colombia, he was directly responsible for hundreds if not thousands of tons of cocaine being smuggled into the United States, and was known for extreme violence in dealing with perceived enemies and threats. Loving Pablo, directed by Fernando León de Aranoa, is a film specifically based on the book by Virginia Vallejo, who was a lover of Escobar's and is portrayed in the film by Penelope Cruz (Javier Bardem's wife).

Most actors will say that the key to playing a villain is to perceive them as the hero of their own story, but after playing Pablo Escobar in Loving Pablo, Javier Bardem noted that a recognition of reality changed how he decided to play the role:

I did the villains in fiction where, like Pirates of the Caribbean, it's a game, it's a joy. You play a thing - but this is a different monster. This is a real monster that created a lot of real pain for real people.

You can watch Javier Bardem discuss his portrayal of Pablo Escobar in Loving Pablo by clicking play on the video below:

Loving Pablo, which co-stars Peter Sarsgaard and Julieth Restrepo, arrives in theaters this Friday, October 5th. Between now and then, stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more from my interview with Javier Bardem.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.