Spanish actor Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, Dune) is receiving criticism for comments he made after being nominated for an Oscar for his role as Desi Arnaz in the 2021 biopic Being the Ricardos.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Bardem, addressing earlier criticism surrounding his playing the Cuban-American actor, bandleader and producer, argued that Spanish characters were themselves a minority in the film industry.
“If we’re talking about minorities, let’s talk about the Spanish minorities,” Bardem told reporters. “How many Spanish roles exist in international cinema? None.”
“I’ve never been offered a Spanish role,” he added. “There are no Spanish roles outside Spanish cinema. There are Latin American roles. So I know what I’m talking about when I talk about minorities. And we need to support minorities, but we also have to support those of us who are minorities as well, faced with representing other minorities.”
Bardem’s comments received a lot of backlash on social media.
“What PR firm approved this message?” asked a Bronx-born Latino actor and director.
“Spaniards love acting like they’re not white cuando les conviene,” read another comment on Latino Rebels’ Instagram.
All he had to do was say, "I'm an actor. It's called acting. The art form is stepping into someone else's shoes. I've played writers, murderers & psychics. Here is a list of my training as an actor as well as my credits." Instead he chose to be stupid.
— Tootie Álvarez (@TootieAlvarez) February 9, 2022
“All he had to do was say, ‘I’m an actor. It’s called acting. The art form is stepping into someone else’s shoes. I’ve played writers, murderers & psychics. Here is a list of my training as an actor as well as my credits,'” says Tootie Alvarez, a contributor for Latino Rebels and host of the labor podcast Rise Up Foo. “Instead he chose to be stupid.”
“I can’t with this entitlement and white privilege,” writes Rosa Del Angel, digital editor for Oxfam US. “So I guess his message is that he takes on the few Latinx leading roles from Latinx actors because there aren’t enough roles for Spanish characters?”
Some commenters, however, came to Bardem’s defense, with a few pointing out that Bardem is a Canarian —who are descendants of mixed African-Spanish heritage, unlike the Castilians of the mainland— and that there are few Hispanic roles in Hollywood, period, whether Latino or Spanish.
“He’s talking about iconic Spanish characters, not actors per se. And he’s right about that,” reads one comment on Instagram. “He’s calling for support from other Hispanics, is that a crime?”
Bardem is married to Spanish actress Penélope Cruz, who was also nominated for an Oscar on Tuesday for her role in the Spanish film Parallel Mothers, directed by Pedro Almodóvar (Volver, The Skin I Live In).