In the indie film Little Ashes, an intense romantic period drama, actor Javier Beltran makes his feature debut as revered gay Spanish poet, playwright and slain political activist Federico Garcia Lorca. Beltran's startling debut, however, has been slightly overshadowed by his suddenly world-famous co-star Robert Pattinson, the teenage heartthrob familiar to millions as vampire Edward Cullen in Twilight. Pattinson plays surrealist painter Salvador Dali, who meets Lorca at art school at the beginning of his career during the 1920s. The two become close friends and lovers before a host of complications intervenes, including Dali's intense preoccupation with fame and outrageous behavior. This time out it's Beltran, with his dreamy good looks, who gets to play the moody, sensual hero filled with passionate, unspoken desires. It's a performance that finds critics comparing Beltran to another Javier—Bardem.
Beltran is busy working on an array of projects—a wildly popular Spanish soap opera called Zoo and the Spanish premiere of the play The History Boys, but during a break in rehearsals from his home in Barcelona he managed to give Windy City Times his only Chicago-area interview. Beltran speaks beautiful English in Little Ashes but is more comfortable in his first language so the interview was conducted with the help of a translator.
Windy City Times: You were cast out of college in Little Ashes—were your college years in any way comparable to those experienced by Lorca, Dali and their artistic group?
Javier Beltran: More or less, yes. I'm 25 and Lorca was 27 so it was about the same, yes. [ Laughs ]
WCT: Lorca is highly revered, obviously, for his writing but do you think are people aware of his gay sexuality?
JB: Yes; the whole world knew. I don't think it was any secret. Everyone in Spain knew that he was gay. It was another thing about whether people talked about it or not. His secret was out there but what people cared more was his poetry [ and still do ] —not necessarily if he was gay or if he wasn't.
WCT: Do you think if the climate for gays in the 20s and 30s when Lorca and Dali were intimate friends had been more accepting, they would have been able to maintain their relationship?
JB: That is very hard to say—I wouldn't like to guess.
WCT: How does it feel to be the envy of millions of teenage girls and gay boys, sharing love scenes with Robert Pattinson?
JB: I don't know. [ laughs ] I'm just very happy to have worked with Robert—to have shared this project with him—and I'm very happy for him for his success.
WCT: Can you talk about filming the love scenes with him? Both of you have said they were painful physically to film—really?
JB: The scenes were very intense. It was very difficult to express since they were very intense emotions in these scenes with what was happening with the two individuals. But I was very comfortable doing the scenes because the crew and Robert were very supportive. I was happy how they came out in the movie.
WCT: In your research did you find a poem of Lorca's that helped you find the key to his character or his relationship with Dali?
JB: Many, many—all of them, actually. A Poet In New York is my favorite Lorca book. I loved the whole book. It's very difficult for me to choose only one.
WCT: You're being compared to Antonio Banderas and Javier Bardem partly because this is your breakout role and, like them, you're portraying a gay character. How does that feel?
JB: Me being compared to Antonio Banderas is a pleasure. I love his career; he's a marvelous actor, he's stupendous [ and ] he's a perfect example for young actors to follow, as is Javier Bardem. I get excited over this idea [ laughs ] I have to admit. I'm proud to be compared to these two. They're great actors both in Spain and abroad; they have great careers.
WCT: Any chance we'll see you in an Almodovar film?
JB: Hopefully! [ Laughs ] I'd love it, absolutely. Not at this moment, though.
WCT: Now that you've played Lorca, any chance you'll appear in one of his plays?
JB: No, I'm not doing any Lorca plays. I would like to, though.
WCT: How do you feel about your success with this movie?
JB: I'm not aware of fame or anything like that. I'm just a 25-year-old run-of-the-mill actor, no more, no less. It makes me very happy knowing that people are watching the movie—the more, the better. I haven't changed anything in my life. I will keep working and that's all.
WCT: Does all this fuss over same-sex marriage in America seem rather odd to someone from Spain, where it's legal?
JB: I don't live in the United States, but I would hope there wouldn't be any controversy and everyone should just live and let live.