Do you remember the first time you saw Antonio Banderas on screen? Maybe it was opposite Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire (swoon)? Who can forget his guitar and long hair in the film Desperado? A whole new generation fell in love with his voice and the animated cat Puss in Boots (first featured in the Shrek franchise). He has more than 85 movies and three decades of acting to his credit, and Banderas’s work is still being recognized. His TV role as painter Pablo Picasso in the National Geographic series Genius scored him nominations for an Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild in the Best Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series category.
The role of Picasso is one Banderas immersed himself in completely. He sat in the makeup chair for five hours to transform into the iconic painter. “My eyebrows are still growing back, and my hair too,” the actor told the Hollywood Reporter. Banderas shaved off both to play the character, who also happens to be his idol. “They offered me this character in my 20s and in my 30s, but I always said, ‘No, I don’t want to play him yet. I admire him too much. He was my idol since I was a little kid,’” he said.
The Spanish-born star first started acting after a broken foot ended his soccer dreams. At 22 years old, he appeared in his first Spanish-language movie, Labyrinth of Passion. His first English-speaking role came in the 1992 film Mambo Kings. It was memorable parts in The Mask of Zorro and Evita that put him on a whole new level of superstardom, and as he recalls, cracked open the door to diversity in Hollywood. When he was cast as Zorro, he remembers being on set and thinking, “Not necessarily the heroes are white, Caucasian, and speak perfect English, and have blue eyes, and they are tall. It can be a different way, and that’s good,” he told Yahoo Entertainment.
Banderas has gone on to direct movies too. In 1999, he made his directorial debut in Crazy in Alabama, starring his wife at the time, Melanie Griffith. The two tied the knot in 1996 and ended their relationship in 2015, after 19 years of marriage. “Even if we are divorced, she is my family, and I will love her until the day I die,” Banderas told People magazine.
Banderas continues to be celebrated as a megastar, especially in his hometown of Malaga, Spain (also Picasso’s hometown). The actor is considered the second-greatest artist from Malaga, the first being Picasso. “That’s the image that I have of Picasso, the genius that gained so much, that opened so much space, that opened the doors to understand the world in a different way,” he told Yahoo Entertainment.
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