ND HEY!” Antonio Banderas jumps up from behind the PR girl who just entered the room. She laughs and apologises with faux annoyance. He monkeys some more: crouching and springing, you understand, is just the Banderas way. Even when he sits down with a cigarette – well, we are in Paris – there are bundles of clownish muscles in play. He twists, he jerks, he beams as he speaks, sometimes to emphasise a point, but mostly to entertain. “It’s good to be silly,” he suggests. “Especially at my age.”
At 51, with a screen career spanning more than three decades, Banderas is suddenly glad to be grey. He had imagined he’d migrate to the other side of the camera by now; he directed his wife, Melanie Griffit,h in 1999’s Crazy in Alabama and brought a version of Antonio Soler’s Englishmen’s Road ( El camino de los ingleses) to the Berlin Film Festival in 2006.
Perhaps, though, all that “Latin lover crap” has obscured the possibilities open to the elder thespian. “With the new Almodóvar film, I saw myself mature in a movie for the first time. And I was like, huh? I’m not juvenile any more. I never thought or saw myself in that way. But suddenly it’s exciting. Suddenly I see the opportunities there. I’m not stuck.”
Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In, his first film with Banderas since 1990’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, played at Cannes to thunderously positive notices last year. The freaky Frankenstein fantasy was, says the actor, a huge career moment.
“It was hard,” he says. “He took away all the tricks I’ve learned and accumulated over the years. Poof. Gone. He wanted me fresh.