Director’s Cut: Antonio Banderas

A vision is nothing without direction. Here, a slate of this season’s biggest projections, as chosen by close collaborators and superfans.

Two legends reunited. Antonio Banderas and Pedro Almodóvar once again join forces in Pain and Glory which opens October 4th. Recently, the two men sat down to discuss their past collaboration, the growth they’ve both experienced since then, and the importance of being honest in your art.

PEDRO ALMODÓVAR: Ever since meeting in the early ’80s, I’ve been attracted to Antonio Banderas’s talent; he is passion and desire incarnate. His intensity borders on madness. In The Skin I Live In, I was pulled towards his attractive[ness], even as [his character became] an absolute monster. There is something innately epic about Antonio. [But] Pain and Glory called for the exact opposite: small gestures, weakened voice, and dry emotion expressed only in the eyes. In those eyes, I wanted the audience to see Salvador Mallo’s profound pain. I asked [him to] portray that and more, while doing the absolute minimum. To see Antonio succeed in this task was a true spectacle.

ANTONIO BANDERAS: It’s a beautiful [thing] to answer a call from Pedro Almodóvar, saying, “I want to send you a script.” We’ve known each other for 40 years, and made eight movies together. But when I read Pain and Glory, the question that came to mind was, Why? Why me to play Salvador Mallo?

There were 22 years between The Skin I Live In and the collaboration before it. Then, I’d wanted to show him how much [I’d accomplished] in America—this suitcase of experiences! But [Almodóvar] was like, “I’m not interested in [that]. I want to know who you are, behind these [accolades] you’re [listing].” Instead of listening, I kind of [took him to task]. I thought, This is a power play. It was kind of tense. But the first time I saw myself as that character on screen, I was amazed by Pedro’s capacity to bring that out—[something] I didn’t know I had. [After that lesson in] humility, I knew to have my eyes and ears open when working with [him].

That’s exactly what I did on [Pain and Glory]—start from zero, as a clean slate. For the first few rehearsals, I felt really naked—not using any of the tools I’d been using for many years. What helped me, in a way, was the fact that I’d had a heart attack two and a half years earlier. That may sound unbelievable, but it’s true; it forced me to reflect very deeply. When you realize that death is the only certainty, there is no space for stupidity, just the truth. In my [life] as an actor, that’s the pressure of being in front of a camera, [the feeling] when the curtain goes up. Tasting that again was extraordinarily satisfying.

[It was] a new way of acting, and of seeing reality. And I saw Almodóvar coming to terms as well. The [story] is a simple one, but he [has everything] to do with it; it’s him reconciling his past, in a very extraordinary way. For 40 years, I’ve known Pedro Almodóvar to be a very private person. [But] I think he and I [rediscovered] each other when we could be honest and real. I must say, it was the best time I’ve ever had with Almodóvar.


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