MADRID, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 25: Actor Antonio Banderas attends the Vanity Fair awards 2019 at the Royal Theater on November 25, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)
  • Golden Globe Awards

Nominee Profile 2020: Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”

“It is always difficult to play somebody who exists,” Antonio Banderas said about playing a filmmaker inspired by Pedro Almodóvar in Pain and Glory. Almodóvar himself directed the film – titled Dolor y gloria in Spanish- about a filmmaker who reflects on the choices he has made in life and his series of re-encounters with the people in his past – a fictionalized autobiographical story which the director defines as “auto-fiction.” Banderas added in our interview in late 2019, “If that person is actually your friend, it’s a little more challenging. And if that person is also behind the camera, then it’s even more extraordinarily difficult and challenging.”Banderas’ and Almodóvar’s friendship and collaboration is a significant one for Spanish and international cinema. After the director saw Banderas in a play, he cast the young actor in his film debut, Labyrinth of Passion. The two talents became friends as they worked together in Almodovar’s seminal films: Law of Desire, Matador, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! These films established Almodóvar as Spain’s premier auteur and paved the way for Banderas’ foray into Hollywood. The director and his muse did not work together for more than 20 years until The Skin I Live In in 2011 and now, Pain and Glory – a personal and emotional experience for both talents, especially since Almodóvar, who turned 70 last September, also wrote the script.While the renowned filmmaker claimed that Pain and Glory is not autobiographical, he admitted that the film is deeply personal, and the life of Banderas’ aging director role parallels his own. Like Pedro, Banderas’ character, Salvador Mallo, is gay, a Spanish filmmaker and suffers from chronic back pain. The acclaimed movie, which has landed on critics’ year-end top-ten lists and is nominated for the Golden Globes’ Best Foreign Language Film, follows Salvador from his childhood in the 60s, his first desire, and his first adult love to his career as a director and the void that he experiences later in life. It’s an emotionally potent story of memories and what-might-have-been.Almodóvar surrounded Banderas with a fine cast, several of whom are regulars in his films: Penélope Cruz, Asier Exteandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Julieta Serrano and Nora Navas. “I wanted to know just two things – why Pedro wanted to do this movie at this particular time in his life and why he wanted me to play him, his alter ego,” Banderas said. “That’s how we started working on this project, just doing a clean slate, and to create a character from nothing, not using the tools that I knew would make this work in one direction or another for me, that I was using for many years, in other movies.”The resulting performance yielded Banderas his first Cannes Film Festival Best Actor prize in May 2019 and his fifth Golden Globe Awards Best Actor nomination (in various TV and film categories). The accolades coincide with Banderas’ resurgence since he survived a heart attack in January 2017. He underwent a procedure to introduce three stents in his arteries.The Malaga, Andalusia-born actor said the health scare made him appreciate the pleasures of acting. Recovering from that health setback gave him the equanimity to tackle the challenge of various recent roles, including famed artist Pablo Picasso in Season Two of National Geographic’s Genius. “After I had my heart attack, some magical things started happening,” he said in our 2018 interview. “I lost the anxiousness for certain things and just enjoyed the pleasure of acting by itself. It was almost like my life gave me the possibility of taking a step back and looking at things with a little more perspective.“The only certainty that we have is death. It’s a second chance, and I’m taking it.”