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Entertainment

AFP
May 26, 2019

Banderas wins Cannes ´best actor´ as Almodovar alter ego

Entertainment

AFP
Sun, May 26, 2019

CANNES: Spanish actor Antonio Banderas has portrayed Zorro and Pablo Picasso but he is above all the go-to actor of Oscar-winning director Pedro Almodovar, who launched his hugely successful film career in the early 1980s.

And it was the 58-year-old´s nuanced portrayal of Almodovar´s alter ego in the director´s "Pain & Glory" that won him the best actor award at the Cannes film festival.

Sporting Almodovar´s spiky hair and colourful clothes, he plays the movie´s central character, an ageing Spanish director who is plagued by physical and psychological frailty who revisits childhood memories.

Almodovar, 69, has repeatedly said Banderas gives the "best performance of his life" in the film, which ran in competition for the Palme d´Or top prize.

And on accepting his award, Banderas dedicated it Almodovar, who has cast him in eight films and helped make him a global box office draw.

"I respect him, I admire him, I love him, he´s my mentor and he´s given me so much in my entire life that this award, obviously, has to be dedicated to him," he said.

Despite six attempts to win the Palme d´Or at Cannes over the past 20 years, Almodovar has never won the top prize and was conspicuously absent from Saturday night´s ceremony.

When Banderas began his acting career he "was a passionate animal who impressed just by his presence", Almodovar told Spanish film magazine Fotogramas earlier this year.

"But now he has matured" after going through three heart operations following a 2017 heart attack "and even though he is full of vitality... I can see in his face the experience of someone who knows that he could be dead", he said.

Speaking to Spain´s Cadena Ser radio, Banderas said he loved the director because he had made him "reflect on a huge number of things throughout my life".

Back in 1987, Almodovar got him to play a gay killer in "Law of Desire" at a time when depicting crime in movies "was morally accepted" while two people sharing a same-sex kiss "was spurned as anathema", he said.

´Romantic face´

During the summer of 1980, Banderas said goodbye to his teacher mother and policeman father and boarded a train for Madrid where he wanted to "invent" himself. At the time, he was not quite 20.

The following year, Banderas, then an actor at the National Theatre in Madrid, was sitting in a cafe when a man approached and said: "You have a very romantic face, you should make movies."

That man was Almodovar, who went on to give him a small role in his 1982 screwball comedy "Labyrinth of Passion", which celebrated the hedonistic culture and sexual freedoms that erupted in Madrid following the death of longtime dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

Banderas describes Almodovar as "a genius" who is extremely demanding. Under his direction, he played a frustrated torero in the 1988 film "Matador", a mental patient who kidnaps a porn actress in the 1990´s "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" and a psychopathic doctor in 2011´s "The Skin I Live In".

Despite not speaking English, he moved to the United States in the 1990s.

His first big success in English was in Jonathan Demme´s 1993 film "Philadelphia" in which he played a lover of Tom Hanks´ AIDS-infected lawyer.

He also starred alongside Tom Cruise in the 1994 film "Interview With the Vampire" and Anthony Hopkins in "The Mask of Zorro" four years later. He got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005.

Own theatre

Banderas´s love life has been closely followed by the gossip press which said he divorced a Spanish actress in 1996 to start seeing American filmstar Melanie Griffith whom he met on the set of the 1995 romantic comedy "Too Much".

The couple, who have one daughter, divorced in 2015 after 19 years of marriage. Banderas has now been linked to a Dutch actress whom he reportedly met at the Cannes film festival.

Last year, he spent hours in makeup every day to play Picasso in the TV series "Genius".

Like Picasso, Banderas grew up in the southern city of Malaga, where he participates each year in one of its annual Easter processions. He will later this year open a theatre in the city.