Javier Bardem to Receive 2023 San Sebastian Donostia Award

Javier Bardem is the first recipient of San Sebastian’s prestigious Donostia Award for this year’s 71st edition.

He will accept the prize, San Sebastian’s highest accolade, granted for career achievement, at the festival’s opening gala on September 22. His image will also feature on the poster of this year’s edition, unveiled today in San Sebastian. 

The only surprise about Bardem’s Donostia Award is that it hasn’t come earlier. A rugby player for Spain’s national team, Bardem first came to fame as a local village hulk playing opposite his now spouse Penélope Cruz in Bigas Luna’s 1992 flamboyant social critique “Jamón, Jamón.” 

Bardem wanted, however, to be an actor, not a sex symbol. Refusing to be typecast, his full international breakthrough came in 2000 thanks to a tearaway performance as gay Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas in Julian Schnabel’s “Before Night Falls,” and in Spain, for his role as a going-to-seed unemployed former factory worker in Fernando León Aranoa’s “Mondays in the Sun” (2002).

Following an Oscar nomination for “Before Night Falls,” Bardem has gone on to snag three more Academy Award nominations and a supporting role Oscar and BAFTA win for 2008’s “No Country for Old Men.”

A member of one of Spain’s most famed acting dynasties – his grandfather, Rafael Bardem, and mother Pilar Bardem were both distinguished actors – Bardem has won more big acting awards than any other Spanish actor alive. The only actors who come close are Cruz and Antonio Banderas. 

From his family he has also inherited left wing political convictions – his uncle Juan Antonio Bardem (“Calle Mayor,” “Death of a Cyclist”) was one of Spain’s most famous director critics of the society Francisco Franco’s regime created, his mother a lifelong activist.

Bardem has channelled these convictions into doc feature production, in partnership with producer-director Alvaro Longoria, their “Sons of the Clouds: The Last Colony,” championing the cause of the Sahrawi people – winning Bardem a producer’s Spanish Academy Goya Award, one of eight in a now over 30-year-old career.

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