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Javier Bardem Gets Honest About Sean Penn’s ‘Disaster’ ‘The Last Face’: Cannes Debut ‘Was Like a Funeral’

Penn's film about a doctor who falls in love with an aid worker, played by Charlize Theron, in war-torn Africa was ripped to shreds at Cannes in 2016.

The Last Face

“The Last Face”

Saban Capital Group

Well, not every Cannes film can be a winner.

During a 75th anniversary celebration of the festival, Academy Award winner Javier Bardem opened up about the box-office and critical bomb “The Last Face,” which premiered at Cannes in 2016.

“It was a disaster!” Bardem admitted, via Deadline.

The “Dune” actor and four-time Oscar nominee starred as a relief doctor stationed in war-torn Africa who falls in love with an international aid organization worker played by Charlize Theron in the Sean Penn-directed drama. The Cannes Competition entry was panned by IndieWire, with critic Eric Kohn simply stating that “The Last Face” is Penn’s “worst movie” to date. The film ultimately landed a D rating and was ripped to shreds by critics and audiences at the time.

Now, six years after its Cannes premiere, Bardem is embracing the critically panned project.

“It was a great disaster,” Bardem said. “It’s good to come to a festival like Cannes and be booed and be reminded that what we do can be horrific, because otherwise, we think of ourselves too highly. I have my own idea about what that movie was.”

At the time, Penn responded to criticisms at Cannes, telling audiences, “I stand behind the film as it is. Certainly everybody is going to be rightly entitled to their own response.” The film went on to be released on DirecTV in 2017, followed by a day-and-date on demand and limited theatrical release by Saban Films. “The Last Face” grossed $1.2 million at the box office.

Bardem continued, “We worked hard on making that movie — I haven’t done any movie where people didn’t work hard. But it was a missed [opportunity]. I mean, it was a [misfire] of a movie, in my opinion. People saw that, people shared that, and the whole rules of the festival changed after that. Right? Now [critics] cannot post reviews on the same day of the opening, because the opening of that movie that day was like a funeral. But I was laughing. I was like, ‘Yes — this is what it is to make movies.’ Sometimes you do ‘No Country for Old Men,’ sometimes you do [a film like] this one, and it is not important whether it’s great or bad. You keep on doing what you need to do. I mean, it’s like life.”

Yet Bardem doesn’t make acting his life by way of method acting techniques, even if erasing yourself into a character is the ultimate goal.

“I guess that every actor’s dream is to erase themselves into their character,” Bardem added. “[But] I don’t think that can ever happen. Some people say they’ve done it, but it never happened to me. But even if it doesn’t happen, that’s the aim. That’s what you’re aiming for when you play a role: to try to find the psychology and the behavior and personality traits that makes that person unique. That’s the part of my job that I love so much.”

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