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Javier Bardem stars opposite Rosie Perez in one of the most controversial films of the year: the explosive sex-and-violence thriller, Perdita Durango, playing one of the darkest characters of recent screen history. From Spain, he talks to PAUL FISCHER.

Not since the heyday of Tarantino, has a film emerged that has ignited as much intense passion as the extraordinary Perdita Durango, a black action thriller revolving around two deadly criminals in love, in lust and on the road with two kidnapped teenagers. For Spanish actor Javier Bardem, it was a chance to make his first English-language film, alongside a devilishly sexy Rosie Perez.

"We tried to inject a lot of humour into these two criminals,"

The on-screen duo make Bonnie and Clyde look like boy scouts, but despite the sometimes intense violence, the brooding actor wants it known that it's a lot of fun. "We tried to inject a lot of humour into these two criminals," Bardem. Rough and sexy Mexican girl Perdita (Perez) and her new found demonic lover Romeo Dolorosa (Bardem) need humans to sacrifice in Romeo's voodoo religion before he can go on a mission ordered by mob boss Santos. They kidnap teen sweethearts Duane (Harley Cross) and Estelle (Aimee Graham) and take them to Las Vegas.

For the Spanish actor, star of acclaimed Spanish films Jamon, Jamon and Boca a Boca, Perdita Durango was a dream come true, and it was a film he'd been associated with for a while.

"It was still a great challenge to work in English for the first time"

"I was first shown the script about five years ago, when I had done a film in Spain from the same director as Jamon, Jamon. The movie changed hands, and it went to Mexican director Alex de la Iglesia, who called me about 2 years ago. 'Man, I've been looking for an American actor to play this guy but couldn't find one, so would you like to play him?' he asked me. 'Man', I said. 'I've been dreaming of playing this character for four years, so of course I want to do it.' "

One of the reasons why he was keen to play the devilishly hypnotic and amoral Romeo, was the chance to work in English, "because at the time I first looked at it, my career was just starting." Now, five years later, things have changed. "Now I have a movie track record behind me, but it was still a great challenge to work in English for the first time, to see if I could it." Clearly he was up to the challenge, not only working in English, but also playing one of the most amoral and narcissistic screen characters ever.

"It was primarily important to me to understand the character from within, to go inside him . . . What was hard, because of my poor English, I wasn't free to improvise or experiment, I was constrained by the language. At the same time, you have this character, Romeo, who's got this extraordinary sense of freedom, a freedom which lends itself to these crazy notions of selling people's souls to a paying audience. He believes that their own Gods are going to protect him from evil or whatever, so he feels free." That freedom, Bardem explains, results in his manic criminal activity, including robbery and murder, "because he thinks he's saved by these religious rituals."

"What I tried to find inside of me, is that sense of power"

Romeo is one of the more chilling screen characters – but he’s based on a true story. "Romeo was based on a real-life Mexican black magician who was killed by the Mexican police in 1984. He was a guy who, through religion, was looking to get some power before moving to the Mexican - USA border, and what he wanted to do, was convince the police, for example, that he was somehow as invincible and powerful as a god. That power enabled him to pass through the borders with any manner of drugs."

In playing the fictional role in the movie, Bardem tried to find something within himself to bring the character to life. "What I tried to find inside of me, is that sense of power, not to kill, but to feel that you're above everyone else, and that's what Romeo was trying to seek."

Perdita Durango, played by Rosie Perez, was also based on the Mexican's real-life girlfriend, a pretty Mexican university student, "who wanted the experience of killing people, just for the sake of it, and they would commit murder and even eat their victims alive."

"It's comic book violence"

This was never going to be an easy film to make, but working with co-star Perez, made Bardem's job a lot easier. "We talked at length as to how we were going to play the roles, and she was incredibly hard working, really living the role. For me, one of the things that works in the movie, is that it's clear we're both in sync, both in the same mood; we are really trying to BE those characters."

The film has caused quite a sensation, not only for its graphic violence, but its highly tough and explicit sex scenes, especially those featuring Bardem and young American actress Aimee Graham. "I have no doubt that once the film opens in America, those scenes will be cut," but he remains full of praise for his young co-star. "Those scenes were particularly difficult for her, because of her own background, and the fact that she was thinking about the reaction that would be generated back in her country. But I think she handled it very well, and we all supported her." As for the controversy, and the film's much talked about violence, Bardem is dismissive. "It's comic book violence, and the characters, in some ways, aren't any less violent than in Superman or Batman. So if you like those types of characters, you'll love this movie, as long as you realise exactly what you're going to watch when you sit in the cinema; it offers very concrete things: sex, violence and a sense of humour. But after all, it's only a movie."

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