This year, Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem joins the long list of actors, from Dr. No‘s Joseph Wiseman to A View to a Kill‘s Christopher Walken to Quantum of Solace‘s Mathieu Amalric, to face off against the world’s most famous British spy. In Skyfall, Bardem plays Raoul Silva, 007′s unhinged, tech-savvy nemesis. Shortly before the film’s Nov. 9 U.S. release, the Spanish actor sat down with TIME to discuss his Bond inspirations, becoming a bad guy and the reasons behind the character’s extreme blond hair.
TIME: You’ve mentioned that you were drawn in by the classic Bond villain Jaws, from The Spy Who Loved Me, when you were young, but that you didn’t revisit Bond movies in preparing for Skyfall. Why not?
JAVIER BARDEM: Because I’m very bad at not being interfered with if I visit somebody else’s work that is related in some way, shape or form to the work I’m going to do.
Do you think that your memories of Bond villains affected your performance?
Sure, they’re in the back of your mind. They’re kind of in your skin. You know the essence. You know the flavors, the colors, that you have to play. But you want to play it according to what you have on the page rather than how they were played other times.
This isn’t the first time you’ve played evil. What’s it like becoming someone who’s a villain?
I mean, it’s a job. When you’re on set or in the theater, you have to let yourself go a little bit and give permission to yourself to disappear for a while and have a nice holiday from yourself.
So did you end up feeling sympathy for Silva?
I need to feel sympathy for every role I play, no matter how horrific they are or how stupid they are or how naïve they are. It’s impossible to defend something if you don’t believe in it 100%.
I’ve heard that you had a variety of inspirations, real and fictional, for Silva’s blond hair. Can you tell me about those?
I prefer not to because it’ll give something away. There were some people that you wouldn’t know and some that are publicly known. None of them were specifically the person we were inspired by; it was a little bit of that and a little bit of this.
It seemed a little bit Julian Assange to me.
I’ve heard that a couple of times but I have to say that, no, that person was not on the table. But it’s funny. People perceive what they perceive.
(PHOTOS: Javier Bardem on Film)
How do the character’s look and his actions relate to one another?
I think the appearance, the behavior, the look, the way he reacts, the way he acts always have to have meaning. When they’re done just for the fun of it, it doesn’t have a meaning and, as the audience, I’m not interested because I see the actor showing off. If in that look there’s something related to the story that you’re telling—and in this case it is, if you watch the movie, you understand why he looks like that.
Do you think in real life you’d make a good spy?
No, I’m the worst for that. I like to talk and I like to be social. I like to be openly okay with people. I’m not very good at keeping secrets.
Since you’re not becoming a spy, what are you working on next?
I finished a movie with Ridley Scott called The Counselor—which is a great opportunity again to work with one of the best—based on an original screenplay from Cormac McCarthy. And I [produced] a documentary called Sons of the Clouds about the Western Sahara that took me four years to put together.