“I saw myself mature in a movie for the first time. And I was like, ‘Huh? I’m not juvenile anymore’. I never thought or saw myself in that way
At 51, with a screen career spanning more than three decades, Antonio Banderas is suddenly glad to be grey, writes Tara Brady
And it was painful. Hold your horses all the time. Don’t give the audience anything. Go smaller, smaller, smaller. It was like working with quantum mechanics. Everything came at the end of the shoot. Like the pieces of a puzzle. Not just for that movie, but why things had happened in the way they had in our lives.”
Did the director and his former muse still have a shorthand after their long separation?
“No, no, no. It was a reinvention. But he did say I was still making the same mistakes I used to 20 years ago.”
Even Banderas’s famous spouse was taken aback by the finished product. “My wife left the theatre and it’s after the premiere and the mood was awesome and we went to a party and she started looking at me weird. And I thought, uh oh, something has happened. We go back to the hotel and she closes the room door and she says, ‘Now I know.’ And I say, ‘Know what?’ ‘Now I know why you have been behaving like this for months.’ ‘Like what?’ ‘Like you haven’t been mean or anything, but you’ve been different. Just different’. And she was right. Almodóvar had turned me inside out. But in a good way.”
It was Almodóvar who first spotted the 19-year-old Banderas on stage and cast the young actor in 1982’s Labyrinth of Passion. They made five films together before The Mambo Kings, Banderas’s first Englishlanguage role, brought him to Hollywood. By then, he was already known to North Americans as the guy Madonna failed to seduce in her 1991 documentary Truth or Dare. Hollywood and Madonna wanted a new Valentino; Banderas had other ideas.
“Other Spanish actors and agents all said the same thing,” he recalls. “If you stay in Hollywood you will be playing the bad guy. I thought I would end up wearing a flower in my hair and dancing the flamenco. But I have worked in every single genre. I’ve done musicals and action films and kids’ movies and vampires. I’ve done dramas like Philadelphia and The House of Spirits. I’ve been a pussycat. I have never had a problem.”
How did he get around the typecasting everyone warned him about? “Things