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Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem have returned to Venice International Film Festival 25 years after they made their debut. Now they’re a married couple, starring in ‘Loving Pablo,’ about notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar. (Sept. 6)
AP

TORONTO — Strong coffee is a must by Day 5 of Toronto Film Festival.

Javier Bardem fixes himself an espresso inside a suite at the Four Seasons. The star flew here directly from Venice Film Festival and has two hot projects in the mix: Darren Aronofsky’s horror film mother! (in theaters Friday) and Loving Pablo, a Pablo Escobar tale he stars in and produced. 

Bardem is right there with the rest of us still reeling from the audacious insanity that happens onscreen in mother!. But his wife, Penélope Cruz, has yet to take it in.

“I’m dying for her to see it,” says Bardem, 48, noting that Cruz is back in Madrid working on Everything Knows, the couple’s upcoming thriller directed by Asghar Farhadi. “Me? I saw it for the first time finished in Venice with 3,000 people. I was like, ‘What the hell?!’ “

Pulpy realism takes center stage in Loving Pablo, Bardem’s Escobar project that’s been a long time coming. For years, the Spanish star has been chasing a fresh take on the ferocious cartel boss, as TV projects like Narcos have moved in to fill the space.

More: Jennifer Lawrence’s ‘mother!’ is even more bonkers than expected

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“With all due respect to everything that has been done, especially on TV, I always felt like that this story, this character, deserved a big scope, a big screen,” he says.

Bardem landed on Loving Pablo (which is for sale at the festival), a film based on Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar, the book written by the Medellín cartel drug lord’s mistress, Virginia Vallejo, about their relationship. Cruz joins her husband onscreen as the glamorous, increasingly desperate TV personality.

Bardem and Cruz have previously co-starred in films like Jamón, Jamón and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but “this is the first time we did something together being a couple, which is a different experience than before,” he says.

In the film, the two don’t shy away from the…