“You know, I host a show about crime,” said CourtTV’s Jami Floyd, leaning in very close to Javier Bardem. “I’ve interviewed serial killers. You’re the only one who ever gave me nightmares.” The actor managed a polite smile. The official purpose of yesterday’s lunch at The Four Seasons, hosted by Miramax president Daniel Battsek, was to honor Bardem and Josh Brolin for their performances in the Coens’ No Country for Old Men (and, one assumes, to kick-start the Oscar buzz). Its unofficial running refrain, however, was people coming up to Bardem and telling him, by way of compliment, that he made them shit their pants.
The film is the brothers’ return to noir form after a couple of bland screwball comedies, but Javier Bardem’s character, Anton Chigurh, is more than a vintage Coen baddie: He’s an instant contender for one of the top few cinema villains of all time. Even the character’s indecipherable provenance and absurd Monkees haircut reinforce the dread Bardem conjures. One of our friends admitted she might never be able to see him star in another film: “It’s like playing Satan.” “Good,” said Bardem when presented with that quote. “This means I did my job well.” Does he himself know where Chigurh is from? “No, we decided it wasn’t important,” explained the actor in his friendly bass rasp. “He’s not really a person. He’s like an accident that happens to other people.”
Behind all the attention Bardem’s helmet of hair has gotten (traces of it, fashioned into a more tolerable cut, were still on display yesterday), another patch of vegetation goes scandalously unnoticed: his co-star Josh Brolin’s serious ’stache. He wears the same one in his villain turn, as a megacorrupt NYC cop in American Gangster. “I’ve had either a mustache or a goatee in three of my last films,” said Brolin, touching his bare upper lip. “Wait. Four. Five. Six?! I have become the facial-hair guy.” He then rattled off his mustached oeuvre with a speed that suggests he’s given it some serious thought. Do NYPD officers secretly admire his character in AG? Not so secretly, it turns out. “Cops come up to me all the time,” admitted Brolin. “Hey man, we loved you in American Gangster!” (Brolin’s character pockets millions in evidence money, shakes down suspects, and shoots indiscriminately.)
Not everyone at the gathering was in the bloodthirsty camp. Wilt Stillman, director of the genteel Metropolitan, refuses to see No Country for Old Men on principle. “I don’t like violence,” he explained. “Then why are you here?” wondered a TV journalist seated across from him. “Well,” murmured Stillman, looking around, “there’s no violence at this lunch, is there?” —Michael Idov