Javier Bardem, Your Latest Bond Baddie

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As you may have heard, Javier Bardem has officially confirmed that he'll be the bad guy in the new James Bond film, which is right now just known as "Bond 23." "I am very excited," Bardem said last night on "Nightline." "My parents took me to watch the movies and I saw all of them. So to play that is going to be fun." And it might be fun for all of us, too. If Bond movies are only as good as their villains, then having someone of Bardem's stature certainly can't hurt. In fact, in some ways he's a real change of pace from your usual Bond baddie.

It's been nearly 50 years since the first James Bond film, "Dr. No," debuted, and over the course of the series the movies' villains have mostly been played by character actors. Donald Pleasence. Christopher Lee. Joe Don Baker. Jonathan Pryce. In other words, as great as these actors are, they're not people whose marquee value could possibly outshine the guy who's actually playing Bond. And while Bardem doesn't have the star power of Daniel Craig, he's definitely someone that audiences recognize who's started developing a commercial track record of his own with hits like "Eat Pray Love" and "No Country for Old Men."

And, unlike a lot of Bond villains, he's got an Oscar. You have to go back to 1985's "A View to a Kill" for the last Oscar-winning actor to square off with 007: Christopher Walken. In the last several years -- and especially during the Daniel Craig era -- the Bond producers have really shied away from the cheesy, eccentric villains that started popping up during the Roger Moore years. Instead, there's been an emphasis on respected, foreign-born actors who can portray a stripped-down dark side. There was Mads Mikkelsen (who later was in "Clash of the Titans") for "Casino Royale," and Mathieu Amalric ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly") for "Quantum of Solace." Bardem, who won his Academy Award as the merciless, emotionless killer Anton Chigurh in "No Country for Old Men," ought to fit right in with that trend.

As for Bardem's career, this announcement comes at a time when his profile is really exploding. Beyond the awards and hit movies, he looked like he was about to become a major box-office star when he signed up for that incredibly ambitious "Dark Tower" multi-film project that was based on the Stephen King books and directed by Ron Howard. That fell apart, however, although jumping aboard "Bond 23" is a nice consolation prize. It's going to be directed by Sam Mendes, Oscar-winner for "American Beauty," and will hopefully be a step up after the very disappointing "Quantum of Solace." Having Bardem on board goes a long way toward making sure that happens.

Javier Bardem confirms he is next Bond villain [Inside Movies/Entertainment Weekly]