Javier Bardem

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After his international breakthrough as a macho stud in Jamon, Jamon, handsome Javier Bardem could easily have been typecast for similar beefcake roles. Instead the actor has chosen a vast diversity of parts, from a gay Cuban poet and quadriplegic to psychopathic killer and Columbian lover, along the way becoming the first ever Spaniard to win an Oscar.

Acting has always been in the Bardem family's blood. Born on the Canary Islands March 1, 1969, Javier was raised the youngest of three children in Madrid by his mother, Pilar who separated from his father Carlos when he was a baby. Pilar was one of the most talented actresses of her generation, while his grandparents were also actors. His uncle, Juan Antonio Bardem, was a director.

At first Javier resisted following in the family footsteps, despite appearing in the film El Picaro (The Scoundrel) at the age of six and acting in several TV series as a youngster. Before he took up acting seriously like brother Carlos and sister Monica, he trained as an artist. A talented sportsman, he also became a member of the Spanish national rugby team. It was not rugby, which he played from the age of nine until 24, which resulted in his Roman profile, however his nose was broken in a nightclub attack by a stranger who asked for his name and then punched him.

He took odd jobs to pay for art college - including one day working as a stripper and a stint as an extra on film sets. Javier was 20 fate when intervened in the form of a speaking part offer from director Bigas Luna for the film Las Edades De Lulu (The Ages Of Lulu). Encouraged by his mother he went on to enroll in acting school.

The 1992 flick Jamon, Jamon, in which he starred alongside a 17-year-old Penelope Cruz, was the handsome youngster's first international hit. While in his native Spain he quickly built a reputation, based on a couple of dozen films made with acclaimed directors such as Pedro Almodovar and Milos Foreman.

Javier's first English-speaking part was in 2000 movie Before Night Falls, portraying the persecuted gay Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas. The role made him an overnight sensation in Hollywood, and he became the first Spanish actor to be nominated for an Oscar. In 2002 John Malkovich cast him in his directorial debut The Dancer Upstairs and described him at the time as "the best young actor in Europe, maybe anywhere". "He has the strength and power of a bull… but with a very masculine fragility underneath," said Malkovich. "His talent is off the radar."

Javier cemented his credentials with 2005's Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside), playing a quadriplegic man who challenged the Spanish legal system for the right to die. The movie won the Academy Award for best foreign film, sparked a debate about euthanasia in Spain, and earned him the best actor gong at the Venice Film Festival.

Despite his physically imposing 6ft 3in frame, Javier has a reputation as a gentle giant. His dislike for violence led him to think twice about accepting the role of a psychopathic killer in the bloody Western No Country For Old Men (2007) alongside Tommy Lee Jones. Having accepted the part he stole the film as chilling killer Anton Chigurh and in 2008 was named best supporting actor at the 80th Academy Awards, making history as the first Spanish actor to take home one of the coveted trophies.

Two weeks after wrapping filming on the film, the versatile star began lensing Mike Newell's adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel Love In The Time Of Cholera, playing the polar opposite to Chigurgh as Columbian lover Florentino Ariza. He also signed up for the lead in Woody Allen's 2008 flick Vicky Cristina Barcelona, in which he teamed up again with Penelope Cruz - whom he began dating at the end of 2007.

Two and a half years later, the couple made their union official by tying the knot in a secret ceremony in the Bahamas, with just a handful of friends and family present. Two months later they announced that they were expecting their first child together, due in early 2011.

Despite his success in Hollywood, for now Javier has no plans to leave his Madrid hometown, where he owns a pair of restaurants. His work, however, is likely to keep him in Tinseltown for many years to come. Neither the silver screen nor his legions of fans can get enough of him it seems. As director Joel Coen said when asked why he chose the actor for No Country For Old Men, "Javier is somebody you can't take your eyes off".
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