Before finally being cast as Pablo Escobar in Loving Pablo, Javier Bardem had been waiting over 20 years to play him.
This gave Bardem plenty of time to meticulously watch every clip and listen to every interview ever conducted by Escobar so that he could perfect his take on the infamous Colombian drug lord, who at one point was smuggling 80% of the cocaine into the US, was turning over $21 billion a year, and was ultimately gunned down the day after his 44th birthday in 1993.
But during my recent interview with Bardem for “Loving Pablo” the Oscar winning actor admitted that his biggest source of inspiration for the film came courtesy of the narcoterrorist’s obsession with hippopotamuses.
“I was very intrigued and very interested in doing the animal approach,” explained Bardem. “His favorite animal was the hippopotamus.”
“In fact when he was killed and his hacienda was raided the animals he had escaped, he had 3 of them and they were set free.”
“Those hippopotamuses were wandering around Colombia killing a lot of people. There’s a great documentary called ‘Escobar’s Hippos,’ which is great because you can see the resemblance.”
“I always knew that, I always saw that. The hippopotamus is one of the wildest animal in Africa.”
“There’s a scene in the movie where I am in the pool and we shot it like I was a hippopotamus before he killed.”
“He is looking at the victim and then he goes fast. It is unstoppable.”
“That way of physicality, that way of moving, that way of talking, that way of relaxing the face, having the weight in the shoulders, face, without paying too much attention to the way he looks.”
“Because Pablo didn’t have any vanity. He only wanted to be respected and he was fine with the way he looked. That was a great thing to work with.”
But it was Escobar’s “force of nature” personality, juxtaposed against his “very low key, slow paced” physical actions, that Bardem really wanted to tap into with “Loving Pablo.”
It was also the reason why he had waited so long for the perfect script, film and portrayal of Escobar, too.
“I had been intrigued by his force of nature in a wrong way. I was always very intrigued by his dichotomy between his actions and his way of behavior.”
“The very low key, slow paced kind of person he was. As an actor it is a great challenge to play that dichotomy.”
“I won’t say that I was offered every Pablo Escobar you can imagine, because that wouldn’t be true. But almost.”
“I refused them because I never felt like that dichotomy was expressed or approached.”
Bardem also opened up about the weight he had to gain in order to do justice to Escobar, who by the time of his death had become increasingly obese.
Although the order in which “Loving Pablo” was shot presented some particular complications when it came to showing off Bardem’s expansive new gut.
“The thing is with the weight, yeah, I gained weight for the role.”
“I also had to do prosthetics, because since there is more than 10 years of age or time, in the beginning he was not really slim, but almost.”
“But in the end you can see the change. He had really abandoned himself, he was morbidly obese. One big weight wouldn’t do the trick.”
“You have to play the different weights. Of course we didn’t film chronologically. The last phone call was shot on the second day of filming.”
“No matter how much he tried to make it as chronologically as we could, it was almost impossible. I gained the weight I needed to gain in order to show it.”
“Loving Pablo” is released in select cinemas on October 5, and will expand across the country over the next few weeks.