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The Cleveland Show
Aug 09 2010, 12:06 PM by Marty Flanagan
Considered one of the best soccer players in Spain, teenager
Antonio Banderas was well on his way to becoming one of the most
rich and famous as a professional athlete - until fate stepped in.
At 14, young Banderas broke his foot, forever destroying his dreams
of soccer stardom. Luckily, Banderas also had an interest in
acting, so when it became clear that his days on the soccer pitch
were over he focused on becoming the one of the biggest movie stars
on the planet.
Discovered by Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodavar, Antonio began
making sexy and controversial films in 1987, including such
international hits as Law Of Desire, Women On The Verge Of A
Nervous Breakdown and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!
Banderas quickly became an overnight star and heart-throb all
across Europe. But the actor was ready for his next step on the
ladder of stardom. He was ready to take on Hollywood, and after
landing a costarring role in 1992's The Mambo Kings, only
months after landing at LAX, it was obvious Tinsel Town and
movie-going audiences were ready for Antonio.
Although he didn't know very much English when his take-over of
Hollywood began, that didn't stop directors and producers from
hiring him for films such as Philadelphia, Desperado,
Assassins, Evita and Miami Rhapsody, the film in
which he would costar and fall head over heels with his second
wife, Melanie Griffith. By 1998, director Martin Campbell was
confident enough in Banderas' English and acting to cast him in the
lead role of a modern-day version of the legendary tale of the
masked hero Zorro. Banderas, alongside Anthony Hopkins and
Catherine Zeta-Jones, would turn Zorro into an icon for
contemporary movie-lovers - making The Mask Of Zorro a
number one box office hit in its first weekend of release.
"I think ever little boy in Spain dreamed of being Zorro," Banderas
said at the time of the film's release. "And, here I am, getting to
pretend I'm my childhood hero, and getting paid for it, too." Even
after it had finished its run at mutiplexes, The Mask Of
Zorro would continue to thrill and excite audiences on cable,
DVD and video. Its continued success encouraged the cast and crew
that a sequel was in order, and seven years later The Legend Of
Zorro hit the big screen. During that time, Banderas had
continued to churn out the hits on film (Spy Kids, Shrek,
Frida) on Broadway (Nine) and even on the other side of the
camera, directing his first film, Crazy In Alabama.
"The Mask Of Zorro has done a lot for my career," admits
Antonio, who stars this fall in Woody Allen's You Will Meet A
Tall Dark Stranger. "Hit movies are important, because they
allow you to do the other things you want to do with your career. I
don't know if I could have done Nine or direct
Alabama if Zorro hadn't have done so well. I'm just so
glad it did. I don't know if we could do a third one, because I'm
getting a little old for the stunts. I'm just happy I had the
chance to play one of my heroes."Did you get hurt while filming The Mask Of Zorro
with the sword fighting and the jumping from buildings and
Yes, I did a lot (laughs). I am a very hard-headed person, and I
try to do as much of the stunts as I can do. Obviously, there are
certain acrobatic moves that I couldn't do or I could have done it,
but I would be here talking without any teeth. Basically, all the
sword fighting is mine. The horse riding is mine. We trained a lot,
almost a month, before we started filming. You have to remember
that Zorro's horse, Tornado, for example, is nine horses. Each one
of the horses has a different skill. Some of them run beautifully.
Some of them rear beautifully. Some of them run alongside the
train. Some of them play drunk. So you have to get acquainted with
all of those horses. You have to start a relationship with all of
them and you have to spend time with each one of them. Basically,
you're going to use all of them, and if you don't know them, then
you lose time, and when you lose time, you lose money. It was a
very long movie with a lot of training and at the end, the last
month, it was really tough. I was just tired to go from first unit
to second unit to third unit, being hung with a cable from a crane
a hundred meters off the ground. Stuff like that. I got hurt
eventually, but nothing too serious. My stunt guy broke his leg in
four parts - blasted ligaments. We had like, I don't' know, twelve
people in hospitals because of the stunts. So, I didn't get it that
bad.There is not very much CGI or blue screen special effects
used in the movie. Why is that?
You have to realize that what we tried to do with Zorro
was something quite difficult. We were trying to make it like
movies shot in the '40's and '50's that are beautiful when you
obtain the result, but it can be a very tiring process. You're
right, we didn't use so much blue screen technology, CGI and
computer animation. No. It is real. When you see a guy falling off
of a horse, it's real. And even the little things that we have,
like being on the top of the train, it looks like things used in
the '50's, in those types of movies. So when you do that, it's
beautiful, but as I said to you before, you need very specific
training to do that kind of thing. I think that it adds a new value
and a new flavor to the movie in a world where technology is taking
over.I know you are quite a lover of motorcycles, so how many
motorcycles do you have. Does (wife) Melanie (Griffith) share that
passion with you?
The fact I have motorcycles in my life is revenge, because I always
wanted to have one when I was very young. The first one that I got
was Harley Davidson. It was a sweet ride. Soft Tail Deuce. It was a
gift that my wife gave me for my birthday around the time I was
doing Evita, and what happened was that I came out of the
house with my bike and the paparazzi got pictures of it and then
other companies just started to approach me. They just started
knocking on the door of my house and giving me bikes.Speaking Of Melanie, does she ever get jealous of you
kissing the gorgeous Catherine Zeta-Jones in the Zorro
movies? Also, how do you deal with it then when you see your wife
kissing another man line on stage or on screen?
On the stage or on the screen there is no problem at all, because
we know that we are professionals. People are paying a lot of money
to us to perform a character. If I kiss a girl in a movie, I kiss
the girl with the same passion that I jump off a horse with and am
going to break my bones. But we're not jealous. Melanie is very
permissive and more than jealousy, if she got upset from something,
believe me, Melanie's got a high pitched voice, and when she gets
upset, it's very high, man. (laughs) I think that in all the years
we've been together (married in 1996), we just cured that. We are
not going there anymore. We got all the solutions to the problems
and now the relationship is going great.Since you are a Hollywood actor, do you ever have trouble
coping with aging?
No. It's not so dramatic, fortunately, for a male actor to age in
Hollywood. It's very dramatic for women, unfortunately. I have said
this before. It's a cruel world for a woman especially when they
cross forty. It's very unfair because it doesn't happen in Europe.
You've got Anna Magnani working practically until the day she died
or Simone Signoret - actresses like that. And here in America it's
quite more difficult. You've got magnificent actresses who aren't
receiving roles that they should, especially from the
studios.Why was it important for you to return to your homeland of
Spain, about four or five years ago, and make movies there instead
of doing more here in America?
All the years that I've had in America, since The Mambo
Kings (1992), had given me the possibility of doing many
different things. I have become a much more eclectic actor. When I
left Spain, the people only knew me at that time because of the
(director) Pedro Almodovar movies. Nothing else. I bet that most
people in America can't tell me the name of one movie out of the
Almodovar circle. And I did thirty-five of them. But I was much
more in a box when I was working in Spain. I was repeating
basically the same character again and again. I spent a lot of time
in bed. (laughs) I didn't do so much of that when I came here. I've
done practically every genre that you can do. So I'm very thankful
to be here. So, I went back to Spain for the same reason. I wanted
to recover and recapture what I was or what I am inside myself.
That's something that I have to do in my own country. I wanted to
tell stories that have happened there, that are written in Spanish,
that were going to be acted in Spanish. There would be Spanish
financing. Everything that I have in the movie (El Camino De
Los Ingleses) smelled Spanish. Not even Spanish. It smelled
Andalusian. I went to my hometown and I want to do that there. I do
it for a reason. I did it because I needed it at that particular
point in my life. And I'm going to continue doing it.There's been rumors that you are thinking about doing
another show on Broadway or London's West End. When you do a play
for a year, what does that do to your movie career?
I don't care, really. I'm really, really, really caring less and
less about my career every day.Why?
I care about what I do in the moment that I do it but I find it
kind of a narcissistic way of handling your life. Back in the 80's,
they would say to you sometimes, 'You shouldn't do this because the
perception of the people of you is this and if you do this you are
going to make a mistake.' No I don't care about that, I am an actor
in the most raw way of the word. I am doing what counts, that's
probably why I became such an eclectic actor.You just did another Shrek, you are in the new
Woody Allen movie You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger and
next year you have the Puss 'N' Boots spin-off
Yeah, so I'm still doing movies for everyone.How has Melanie helped you through the hard times and how
have you helped her?
In an unconditional way. Unconditionally. For example, when I went
to Spain, the plan was at the beginning just to go to Spain. They
were going to come with me, and we were going to put the kids in
school there. But at the same time that was happening, she got an
offer to do this TV show (Twins) that she did. I knew that
she had to do it. She has been longing to work for a long time. I
think that it's very unfair what happened to Melanie. I say it
plainly like this: I think that she's a wonderful actress. A
marvelous comedy actress. She has been misused. I mean, she hasn't
been used at all. She wanted to work, and I knew how important that
was to her, so I pushed her to do that and at the same time she
pushed me to go to Spain and do what I had to do. So that type of
help, understanding, the needs, that doesn't have anything to do
with our relationship. The needs that have to do with our
profession. From the moment that Melanie and I got married, I said
to her that we were a married couple, but that we were individuals.
We have to move in the world like that.Family is very important to you, isn't it?
Oh yes. Work and family, those are my main things in my life,
There is a scene in one of the Zorro films where Zorro's
house is set on fire and he has to make an important decision what
to save. If your house was burning in real life, what would you
want to save?
My family first, without a doubt. And then… I don't know? I'm not
such a materialistic guy, but I will go probably for the music
stuff, the books and all of those things that fill my soul. My
piano, maybe. Now, that's going to be something hard to move quick,
with the house burning down around me. (laughs) But, doing the
Zorro movies, I've had practice, so you never know.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------The Mask of Zorro is available now in our
Global Movies section.
By: Earl Dittman