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Wed, October 26, 2005
Back from the zed

Antonio Banderas back as the man in the mask

By JIM SLOTEK, Toronto Sun

Antonio Banderas returns to fight evil in The Mask of Zorro, in theatres Friday.

LOS ANGELES -- Some sequels seem fated by unconscious acts. Antonio Banderas, for example, kept his sword from 1998's The Mask of Zorro. Why, he's not sure.

"I didn't practise very much during seven years," he says, talking up his return Friday to the mask and cape in the long-delayed followup The Legend of Zorro.

"It is true that swordfighting is like riding a bicycle, once you do it, you never forget. But you do have to refresh. It is a dance. A dance with an edge -- and that edge is potentially very dangerous.

"It was much more painful this time because I'm 45. And when you crash, your bones start telling you you're 45."

These days it's hard to tell what 45 is supposed to look like. But the fit, tanned guy in jeans and denim shirt sitting in front of me is hardly a case study in middle age.

He is correct, however, about The Legend of Zorro being a bigger fish. It was a sequel that seemed to not want to happen, despite the original's $200-million US box-office and obvious audience appreciation of Banderas as Don Alejandro de la Vega and a then-unknown Catherine Zeta-Jones as his fiery leading lady Elena Montero. Money talked some more in the form of DVD sales.

"There is a moment you feel the movies don't belong to you anymore," Banderas says. "They belong to the audience. And a movie like this, the audience is the one that decided in the end if there is to be a sequel or not.

"There were many of the same people, not only the people in front of the camera, but the same cinematographer, the same art director, the same casting director. It was kind of a family thing."


A family thing indeed. In this movie, Alejandro and Elena are now married and have produced a 10-year-old mini-Zorro, a son Joaquin, played by Mexican child actor Adrian Alonso. Unlike the original, in which villains were dispatched by stabbing thrusts, there is no bloodshed in this movie, the better to snare that elusive PG rating.

It's in keeping with Banderas' family man image these days. After all, the Spanish-born actor was a big hit as Puss in Boots in Shrek 2. He's already at work reprising the character in Shrek 3, and depending on how that does at the box-office, there are talks to give Puss his own movie.

"The fact that for me, who arrived in this country 16 years ago without speaking the language, that they want to use me just for my voice, kind of makes me proud somehow," Banderas says.


Which is not to say his entire career will be PG. Banderas will be taking to the chair again to direct El Camino de los Ingleses. The movie will shoot next month in Spain with an all-Spanish cast.

"I need to do it. I have been so much out of the Spanish film for a while, they didn't feel good about my persona of just working in America all the time. It was like a duty. It is harder, darker, more sexual than the movies I have done here."

He's also wrapping up co-starring in the dark indie film Bordertown for director Gregory Nava, again filming in Mexico -- this time with Jennifer Lopez.

"I play a Mexican journalist investigating murders, and she's also a (Latina) journalist but she wants to be American and grows her hair blond. At the end she has to recognize her origins and meld with that."

Also in the works, a Broadway musical version of the Johnny Depp movie Don Juan DeMarco.

"What I have learned over the years, is so vast. So many things happened in my life, my personal life, from directing my first movie to going to Broadway. It gives me some kind of vertigo to think all this happened from the first time I step in this country.

"I don't think it's over, I keep going, working, I feel better than ever."
Next story: Ga-ga over goo-goo

Zorro returns to the big screen Friday. Who is your favourite masked man?
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