On Thursday, Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz became only the sixth married couple in Oscar history to be nominated in the same year – but when TheWrap told Bardem that the most famous couple to achieve that feat was Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, he had a quick response.
“I hope we don’t end up like they did, right?” he said, laughing as he remembered the famously combative couple who were married in 1964, nominated for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” in 1967, divorced in 1974, remarried in 1975 and divorced again in 1976.
In fact, three of the five previous Oscar-nominated couples did split up post-Oscars. Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne stayed together after their 1932 nomination, as did Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester after their dual noms in 1957. But in addition to Burton and Taylor, Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner were nominated in 1953 and divorced four years later, while Rex Harrison and Rachel Roberts were nominated in ’63 and divorced in ‘71.
“Oh no, no, no, that’s not gonna happen!” Barden shouted on a Zoom call from Spain. “I assure you.”
The possibility of his and hers nominations – his for playing Desi Arnaz in “Being the Ricardos,” hers for starring in Pedro Almodovar’s “Parallel Mothers” – made for an eventful morning in the Bardem/Cruz household. “It’s been a beautiful day at home,” he said with a big grin. “We were holding on to each other, trying to fit on the same sofa, and there were so many things to pay attention to.”
Those other things included “The Good Boss,” Spain’s international entry, which stars Bardem and which made the shortlist but was not nominated; “Parallel Mothers,” which also received a nom for its composer, Alberto Iglesias; and the Spanish short film “Distances,” which wasn’t nominated.
But the main events, he conceded, were Best Actor and Best Actress. “When the time for actor came, I knew my name would be the first because (it starts with) B,” he said. “So if they don’t start saying the ‘Ja…’ right away, we had a problem. I heard the ‘Ja,’ and I said, ‘All right!’ And she celebrated more than me.”
In the Best Actress category, though, Cruz didn’t have the same alphabetical advantage. “They said Chastain, Colman, and she said, ‘too many Cs.’ But then, ‘Penelope Cruz,’ and that was the moment when we were like, ‘Yeahhhhh!’
“It’s extraordinary, having that moment of sharing something so special with your wife. It really makes the thing way more valuable. I mean, it is valuable, of course, but the fact that you can share that with your wife for the tremendous, amazing work she does in ‘Parallel Mothers,’ it’s special.”
As for the work that got Bardem his own nomination, he still remembers the Zoom conversation he had with writer-director Aaron Sorkin when Sorkin told Bardem and Nicole Kidman that he didn’t want them to do imitations of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball in “Being the Ricardos.”
“It was a great weight off our shoulders when he said to both of us, ‘That’s not what I’m looking for,’” Bardem said. “But I know that as soon as we hung up from that Zoom, Nicole and I were still searching and searching, watching every episode (of “I Love Lucy”) to find every intonation, every aspect of them. You can’t help but do that.”
And no, he was never really confident that he’d found the essence of Desi. “In 32, 33 years of working on movies, there’s not one where I haven’t felt like I’m the wrong actor to do it,” he said. “There’s always a moment where you think, ‘Everybody knows I’m the wrong actor, but nobody dares say it to me.’ You just have to keep going – and if you’re lucky, there will be more good moments than bad moments.”