From performing on the streets of little known small towns in Spain to a high grade Hollywood star is indeed a far cry for the macho man and Latin Lover who also played the role of a gay in many movies. Antonio Banderas is today a name to reckon with in Hollywood.
Besides movies he has also made a mark in American Theater and soon took to producing and direction. Though rather short in stature (he is only 5’9”) he looms large and stands tall among fellow Hollywoodians.
Being innovative he loves to experiment even at some risk and lent his voice for the incredibly successful box-office bonanza, Shrek 2 for the swashbuckling cat ‘Puss in Boots’. It has added a new dimension to his creative personality. Such a Hispanic American and Hollywood star is Antonio Banderas. Certainly talent tells and his life is yet another example of the old-world lesson that efforts never fail.
Jose Antonio Dominguez Bandera was born in Malaga, Spain, on 10 August 1960, His father was a government servant while his mother was a teacher. His parents wanted him to pursue a career which is conventional and befitting their middle -class mores but the lad had other ideas. At first he was keen in football but a foot injury put an end to such dreams.
Acting was his next goal and he collected friends with similar interests in Malaga and conducted plays on streets. At twenty, lit by the fire of acting he went to Madrid where he joined the famous National Theater of Spain and worked for five long years. While he did not get any roles he worked as a waiter, as a department store clerk and picked up modeling assignments with his libido-lighting Latin looks.
The turning point in his life occurred when he met a fast rising, controversial and talented, creative filmmaker Pedro Almodovar. Obviously impressed by the young actor’s hot-shot looks and talent the noted Spanish filmmaker gave him the much needed break in movies in 1982 in his Labyrinth of Passion.
Spanish moviegoers began to take notice of the new young man with his looks. More movies with Almodovar followed and the director moulded Banderas into an excellent actor. Almodovar’s Women On The Edge Of A Nervous Breakdown (1988) was a hit all over Europe including in America, and its success opened the doors of Hollywood to Antonio Banderas.
Ana Lesa, the Spanish actress, was his heroine in this hit film and they soon got married. She moved along with him to the United States and they parted company in 1995 when Banderas met the noted glamorous Hollywood star Melanie Griffith during the making of Two Much (1995). Obviously the two saw much of each other, and after divorcing his first wife Banderas married Melanie and a daughter was born in 1996.
His Hollywood debut took place in 1992 with The Mambo Kings, a musical. As he did not know English at this time he learnt the script phonetically and spoke his lines. However critics and knowledgeable moviegoers could realize that the Hispanic actor did not understand the words he was saying and yet he said them with some kind of impact! Aware of the deficiency, he set to learn English and soon he acquired considerable proficiency.
His reputation began to ripple out in Hollywood and soon stardom came to him. Of course he was not yet on the top rank like Arnold Schwarzenegger but he commanded a salary of one million dollars during the early years. It was mega buck for him which was far beyond the wildest of his dreams!
1993 was a successful year for Banderas with two movies attracting much attention from critics and crowds. One of them was Philadelphia.
Philadelphia is the story of a homosexual lawyer with AIDS who sues his firm for wrongful dismissal. Banderas played his homosexual lover. Another gay role followed in Interview with the Vampire (1993).
Breaking the ‘gay mode’ he played the male lead in Desparado (1995) which established him as a macho male hero. And in the same year came the fateful meeting with Melanie Griffith in Two Much which led to the marriage and parenthood! Exit Anna Lesa!
In 1998 came his hour of crowning glory when he was cast in Mask of Zorro along with the great actor Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta Jones. The tale of Zorro has been filmed many times since the silent era and the Banderas version, a big hit, established him as an action hero of the top class in Hollywood.
A sequel, Zorro 2 is in the works. Interestingly Anthony Hopkins who had died in the earlier Zorro comes back alive in this sequel in a flashback!
1996 Banderas played the revolutionary leader `Che` in the musical Evita opposite Madonna. And in 1999 he made his directorial debut, Crazy in Alabama, starring his wife Melanie Griffith who was the producer.
2001 saw him teamed with his favorite director Robert Rodriguez in Spy Kids in which he played a retired espionage agent who comes out of retirement. This proved to be a box office bonanza and not surprisingly sequels were planned and made.
Like movies like theater, he made a major splash with revival of the celebrated Broadway musical Nine. It is inspired by the immortal movie classic of the great Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini’s 8 ˝. Hence the title Nine!
And Shrek 2 took him to new directions. Not surprisingly its phenomenal success has inspired sequels, Shrek 3, Shrek 4 and Shrek 5 too!
And Antonio Banderas will be ‘meeeowwing’ to glory in these movies.