Antonio Banderas

Antonio Banderas

Season 7 |
Aired: August 15, 2001

This Spanish star took America by storm in 1991 starring as the Cuban trumpeter in The Mambo Kings - a gutsy move considering Antonio Banderas didn't speak English and had to learn his lines phonetically. Intensive English lessons backed by a deep motivation to learn, Banderas tackled the role, and earned a large portion of the acclaim awarded to the only moderately successful film. But The Mambo Kings was not Banderas' first claim to fame. Banderas' acting accomplishments in the states were well credentialed by a number of Spanish feature films and awards. Son of a teacher and a policeman, as a boy Antonio wanted to be a professional soccer player, until he broke his foot at age 14. Banderas discovered his true calling when he saw Milos Forman's hit 1979 cult movie Hair. Living in Malaga, Spain where theater was a respected, and highly structured medium, Banderas enrolled in drama classes and soon formed his own drama troupe, which traveled all over Spain, performing on streets in little towns. Banderas' life changed when he met a radical young film director Pedro Almodovar. At the time, artists and intellectuals were churning out exciting work, in the newly liberated atmosphere of post-Franco Spain. Banderas and Almodovar made a handful of controversial films beginning with 1982's Labyrinth of Passion, an absurdist sex farce about transvestites, punk rockers, and nymphomaniacs. It was Almodovar's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown(1988) that would bring Banderas to the spotlight of an international audience. Almodovar and Banderas' last collaboration, Tie Me up, Tie Me Down! featured Banderas as a charismatic mental patient who kidnaps a drug-addicted porn star and keeps her tied to a bed until she falls for him. This was not the first controversial theme that Banderas tackled. He was an actor who had willfully undertaken a number of roles that called for him to portray gay characters (notably Almodovar's Law of Desire), and brushed off any rumors that he himself was gay. This daring tendency to take on challenging and controversial roles did not end when Banderas came to Hollywood. After The Mambo Kings, he starred opposite Tom Hanks in Jonathan Demme's Philadelphia, where he found himself again in the role of a gay character. Banderas then went on to flood the American silver screen in a string of movies that further tapped his talents for bring complex personalities alive on screen including House of the Spirits (1993), Interview with the Vampire (1994), Desperado (1995), and Assassins (1995). In early 1995, Banderas played opposite Melanie Griffith in the comedy Two Much. The two fell in love and Banderas divorced his love-at-first-sight wife of eight years, and married Griffith in May of 1996. The couple welcomed their first child, Stella del Carmen, the following September. In 1997, Banderas starred opposite Madonna in the musical Evita, then went on to the entertaining film The Mask of Zorro (1998). The following year he starred in the sci-fi thriller The 13th Warrior, made his directorial debut with Crazy in Alabama starring wife Melanie, and co-starred with Woody Harrelson in the boxing flick Play It to the Bone. Most recently Banderas starred in Spy Kids (2001) and is slated to appear inThe White River Kid, a tale of the adventures of a redneck evangelist and a young serial killer who travel the Midwest posing as monks. The controversial and challenging roles don't end there, Banderas starred in the The Sparrow, a story of a Jesuit priest who discovers signs of intelligent life on another planet.

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