“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

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Cover Story -

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

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