Five Favorite Films with Antonio Banderas
The star of this week's The Code talks Fellini, Rob Marshall's Nine, direct-to-video movies and more.
While contemporary audiences might know him best as the swashbuckling Zorro, the gun-toting El Mariachi, or the voice of Shrek's furry friend, Puss in Boots (who's set to get his own spin-off film in 2012), Spanish native and Hollywood veteran Antonio Banderas got his start in the audacious films of art-house darling Pedro Almodovar (including Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Matador, and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown). Naturally, we were dying to see if Banderas' favorite films were as varied, and as controversial, as the movies in which he's starred -- and we weren't disappointed.
We were also curious to address a pricklier subject regarding movies and the artists who make them, no matter their audience. This week, Banderas, Morgan Freeman, and director Mimi Leder attempt to subvert a popular way of thinking in Hollywood with their heist thriller, The Code; namely, that "direct-to-DVD" doesn't necessarily equal "bad." In The Code, Banderas and Freeman play criminals who form a tenuous partnership in order to pull off a huge heist in New York City; gangsters, girls, double-crosses, and, yes, a room full of lasers provide familiar genre obstacles for the pair, who enjoy a smooth chemistry onscreen in a genre exercise that probably could have performed well in theaters in the '90s.
In this regard, Banderas is a happy pragmatist, and well aware of the difficulties (and values) of working outside of Hollywood on independent productions like The Code. "The work is what you do when you are acting," he told us, satisfied with the experience alone. "But that's the way it goes!"
Read on to see which auteurs Banderas noted among his favorites, why he joined the cast of Mimi Leder's The Code (out this week on DVD) just weeks before filming, his thoughts on independent filmmaking, Fellini, Bunuel, and more, and how being a pragmatist is necessary for an artist in his particular line of work.
8 1/2 (1963,
Why? Well, I think it's an act of freedom, the whole entire movie, practically. They didn't have a script. In 1962, which is the year when the movie was shot, I thought it was unbelievable that somebody would just go into an experiment like that. It's still a very experimental movie, very emotional in a way. I like what he says about the human spirit and creation; in a way, crisis of a man confronting life, his past, his present and his future in a very formal way. I mean formal in terms of format, how the movie was told, not only in the content of the movie, which is amazing. Also in the way that he decided to just do it absolutely free, inventing new rules for telling a story and not going in a traditional way. I thought it was the masterpiece of Federico Fellini
that most attracted me; I feel very proud that I know [what it's like for] a guy like Federico Fellini, who got the balls to just jump into such believable, reflections of mirrors, you know, inside the movie.
I love the scope of the movie; there is something in David Lean
that I like very much. He's always of the macro worlds and the micro worlds; he didn't only do it in Lawrence of Arabia
, but repeated it in Dr. Zhivago
and other movies. [In Lawrence of Arabia
] he made a movie with enormous scope and events that were known in the world -- the Turkish-British War, and at the time, the taking of Akaba -- things that were very spectacular and very epic, but in reality he's talking to us about the homosexuality of one of the characters and something really minimalistic and very precise. He gets into the soul of a man through this spectacular movie and this union of these two worlds. He did it again in Dr. Zhivago
as I said before, because in a way he put together the entire Russian revolution, which is also very big, while in reality telling a love story. So this kind of union, joining, he does between the macro world and the micro world is something that I was always interested in, and he was a master of doing the type of job. It's one of those movies that always remain in your mind. Also, he gave himself permission to do it in a way that probably no studio would buy in our day; just to see a man coming from five miles into the camera for two minutes and a half -- no executive producer would allow that to happen! He gave himself permission to do that, and I had the luck of seeing a remastered version of Lawrence of Arabia
in a theater in Spain 10 years ago, and it was magnificent because it gave you the possibility of thinking, which is unusual.
We also have the performance of first time movie actor Peter O'Toole
. That was the first movie that he did, which I didn't know until I worked with Omar Sharif
in a movie that I did years ago called 13th Warrior
, and he told me that. At the time, he was a very prominent theater actor in London, but that was the first movie that he did. I will never forget those blue eyes on the big screen. Amazing!
The Exterminating Angel
is a surrealistic movie. It's about a bunch of people from high society in Mexico who, after one night at the opera, decide to have drinks in the house of one of them, and they cannot get out. And they spend about three months there, and you don't know why they cannot get out, but they cannot. [Laughs] It's a very, very beautiful and interesting story -- also risky, and very misunderstood at the time that the movie opened. But you know, that's what happened sometimes; after the second World War, naturalism and realism won the battle, so it was imposed that cinema had to be realistic always. But there was a time that it was not like that; Russians were doing expressionist movies, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
for example in Germany, and all these German directors, they were doing another type of approach to movies in formal terms. And in Spain, too, we had Luis Bunuel
who was doing this type of surreal movies that were very interesting. Now they can be revised in sort of a different way, with time passed. But Luis Bunuel is definitely one of my favorite directors of all time.
Next: Banderas speaks candidly about why he joined the cast of Mimi Leder's The Code, the challenges that face independent films in a studio-run world, and accepting the fate of the "direct-to-DVD" film. Plus, Fellini fan Banderas shares his hopes for Rob Marshall's upcoming film Nine, adapted from the Broadway musical for which Banderas won a Tony nomination.
I'm going to go to a guy who, being American, loved Spain; actually, he's buried physically in the land where my father was born, in Ronda, Spain. His name is Orson Welles
, and the movie is Touch of Evil