Javier Bardem becomes first Spanish actor to win Oscar

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Javier Bardem became the first Spanish actor to win an Oscar on Sunday by taking the best supporting actor award for his chilling portrait of a psychopathic killer in “No Country For Old Men.”

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Bardem, 38, who has won virtually every movie award this season for his performance, claimed the Oscar in his second bid for the film industry’s highest honor.

He previously was a best leading actor candidate for his role as a Cuban poet in the 2000 biopic “Before Night Falls.”

In “No Country,” a violent modern western thriller written and directed by brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, Bardem plays a peculiarly coiffed killer who cuts a violent swathe across small-town Texas, often deciding the fate of random victims with the toss of a coin.

“Thank you to the Coens for being crazy enough to think I could do that and put one of the most horrible hair cuts in history on my head,” Bardem said in his acceptance speech.

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He said he wanted to share the Oscar with the cast of the movie, and he dedicated the award to Spain and to his mother, the Spanish movie and television actress Pilar Bardem, who accompanied him to the ceremony.

“Mama, this is for you. This is for your grandparents and your parents, Rafael and Matilde, This is for the comedians of Spain who like you have brought dignity and pride to our profession. This is for Spain and this is for all of you,” said Bardem, speaking in rapid Spanish.

A household name at home with four Goyas -- the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars -- and a movie and television career stretching back 18 years, Bardem has moved into mainstream Hollywood in recent years with movies like “Collateral” and “Love in the Time of Cholera.”

He is the youngest in a Spanish family of actors and started acting at the age of 6. His breakthrough performance came in “Before Night Falls” (2000) in which he was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas.

Bardem lives in Madrid and has recently been romantically linked with Spanish actress Penelope Cruz.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; editing by Dean Goodman and John O’Callaghan