Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem struggles to find work in his native Spain

Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem said he works "less in Spain than (he) would like to".
Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem said he works "less in Spain than (he) would like to".PHOTO: AFP

MADRID (AFP) - He is Spain's best-known actor but Javier Bardem has trouble getting work there. "I work much less in Spain than I would like to," the Oscar winner said.

"I don't get the scripts because people think I live abroad, or that I would be looking for stratospheric money, which is not true," he added.

"If a film has a budget, of course I want to be paid, but if not, we can find another way," Bardem said.

The actor, who lives with his wife Penelope Cruz and their two children in Madrid, has always been deeply engaged in his homeland.

The son of an activist actress from whom he inherited a passion for left-wing causes, he began his career in the 1990s with directors like Bigas Luna and Pedro Almodovar, who were challenging the country's view of itself after decades of dictatorship.

That taste for revolt has never left him. His family played a key role in organising protests against the Iraq war, and he incurred the wrath of the current leader of the right-wing People's Party, Mr Pablo Casado, for criticising its dismantling of Spain's social security system when it was in power.

Bardem, who turned 50 last month, is not tempted to make the transition to the director's chair.

"Playing a role is an enormous act of trust and generosity," he said.

"You offer yourself for someone else to work with and manipulate, and not always for the better. I can see how an actor would say, 'Now I want to direct my own work'," he added.

"But directing is much more than that, it's an extraordinarily difficult job. I don't feel I would be able to do it well, and more importantly I don't feel the need to."

Bardem, who won his best supporting actor Oscar for the Coen brothers' No Country For Old Men, is still very much attached to the "romance" of watching a film in a cinema.

That said, he would happily work for a streaming platform if the project was right.

"Amazon and Netflix are making the kind of cinema now that the studios refuse to make," he said, pointing to films like Alfonso Cuaron's Oscar-winning Roma and Martin Scorsese's forthcoming The Irishman.