Asbury Park Press
Published 2:54 PM EDT Oct 22, 2019
Antonio Banderas suffered a heart attack in the spring of 2017. Two and a half years later, the 59-year-old actor says that health scare was “was one of the best things that ever happened to me.”
“I know it sounds very weird, but it taught me so much about myself and how should I move in the years to come and the perception that I had of reality, how wrong it was in certain areas,” Banderas told the Asbury Park Press and USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey.
He also got to work in grand fashion, earning Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his 2018 portrayal of Pablo Picasso in executive producer Ron Howard’s “Genius” and appearing alongside Meryl Streep in Steven Soderbergh’s Panama Papers film “The Laundromat,” arriving on Netflix Oct. 18.
Left in an emotionally raw and tender place after his heart attack, Banderas said everything changed for him in 2017.
“Suddenly, it’s almost like some kind of thing opened, like a door that was closed … It’s almost like you radiate a different kind of aura and things start happening suddenly in a very interesting, beautiful way,” Banderas said
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But there’s one piece of work that international cinema fans are waiting for with baited breath: “Pain and Glory,” the eighth collaboration between Banderas and writer/director Pedro Almodovar.
It’s the latest step in a partnership that began with 1982’s “Labyrinth of Desire” and already earned Banderas the Cannes Film Festival’s Best Actor honors.
“(In) those days, those years, the year and a half it took to recover, I thought a lot, and Pedro saw that. When he called me, in the first rehearsals, he said to me, ‘Listen, I don’t know what happened, I don’t know how to describe it, there’s something different about you now and I think the character needs that so don’t hide it, don’t try to hide that. This is an opportunity to just put your own truth into a character because he feels pain and we want to measure all of those feelings, of course, but I think you can use that,’ ” Banderas recounted.
“And I knew exactly, exactly what he was talking about. Because it’s not sadness, I don’t know know how to describe it, because in a way it’s a very pleasant feeling of recognizing yourself as somebody who’s going to die, that your days are counted, the clock is ticking, that you’re going to be 60, that that is OK.
“It’s OK, so you don’t have to be the romantic athlete all the time. And so I said, ‘OK, yeah, I’m going to go through that mud with you and we’re going to try just to modulate the character with that.’ ”
Now playing in select cinemas and opening in New Jersey theaters on Friday, Oct. 25 via Sony Pictures Classics, “Pain and Glory” stars Banderas as Salvador Mallo, an acclaimed Spanish filmmaker grappling with physical, mental and emotional pains while coming to terms with memories from his tumultuous childhood.
Banderas said he recognized Almodovar’s inspiration immediately.
“Pedro called me one day and said that he had some material that was going to be very familiar to me,” Banderas said with a laugh. “That’s what he said, ‘You’re going to find a lot of references there that actually you’re going to recognize’ … When I saw it and read it I was like, ‘Oh my God, it’s him. He wants me to play him.’ It was just a mixture between pleasure and panic.”
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Almodovar, 70, crafted a remarkably vulnerable, naked piece of work with “Pain and Glory,” one that has come along at the perfect time in his and Banderas’ lives and careers.
“I got material in front of me that was very sincere, and started realizing that there is a time in the life of people, which has to do with age, in which there is only a space for the truth,” Banderas said. “And I think Pedro reached that point and he was sending me a declaration of principles with this material in which, basically, what he does is just to reconciliate with himself and come to terms with people, with wounds that were open in the past and that happened with family, with lovers, with actors, with friends and with life itself, too, with cinema.”
After garnering some of the finest reviews of his career with “Pain and Glory,” Banderas is set to turn his attention to another post-heart attack passion project: a Spanish-language staging of “A Chorus Line” he is co-directing and starring in at his new Teatro del Soho Caixabank in his hometown of Malaga, Spain.
“Suddenly, after that event, one of the things that became clear to me is that money is this kind of intellectual, Machiavellic process in your brain,” Banderas said. “and I said, ‘What am I doing with money in the bank? What if I die tomorrow? I’m going to buy a theater.’ So I bought a theater, which is my real passion.”
Banderas’ 1,000-seat theater is set to open on Nov. 16 after years of renovations, and is attached to a 600-student school teaching dance, singing, acting and academic courses that will be home to a second, 300-seat theater next year.
He chose to stage “A Chorus Line,” he said, because of the way it focuses on the background players of the theater world, “those guys that actually nobody paid attention to but they are the ones who sustain the industry. And it was so democratic and so beautiful and it reflects about young people in search of excellence, in search of a dream, talking about sacrifice. It was so perfect to open a theater.”
Banderas said “Pain and Glory,” the eight installment in a four-decade artisitc relationship between him and Almodovar, is “almost like closing another cycle of your life in a very beautiful way,” but he did not rule out a future project with his longtime collaborator.
“We’ll see,” Banderas said, adding, “The best is still to come.”
“Pain and Glory,” 113 minutes, rated R, now playing in select cinemas.
The film opens Friday, Oct. 25 in New Jersey, including at the Roberts Chatham Theatre, Hawthorne Five, Reading Manville 12, Maplewood 6, Clairidge Sixplex in Montclair, Loews New Brunswick 18, Red Bank Arts Cinema, Montgomery Cinemas 6 in Skillman, Washington Triplex in Washington Township and Westwood Cinemas.
For a full list of theaters and release dates, visit www.sonyclassics.com/painandglory.
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