02/21/2008 at 08:00 PM EST
Currently one of awards season's sexiest men, Oscar nominee Javier Bardem had to cope with a major challenge on the set of No Country for Old Men
: his Prince Valiant haircut.
"He hated it and loved it," the movie's hair stylist Paul LeBlanc tells PEOPLE. "But he would say that once I did his hair, he could become the character. Javier is a true actor and got into the character sublimely."
The cut, inspired by paintings of medieval knights, generated buzz among cast and crew.
"On set, everybody would look at [Javier] and say, 'My God, what is that?'" LeBlanc says. "Josh Brolin told him at one point, 'You ain't gonna [score] for three months.' "
Off-screen, Bardem would simply slick the style back before a night out. LeBlanc confirms that despite the nightmare 'do, the actor was still "a man about town."
Indeed, since wrapping the New Mexico shoot, Bardem's love life hasn't missed a beat. He's been quietly dating actress Penelope Cruz
since the fall.