“The Skin I Live In” reunites Antonio Banderas with the director who kick-started his career. “With Pedro Almodóvar there is a very close relationship since the beginning of the ’80s,” says Banderas, who starred in five films for Almodóvar between 1982 and 1990. “This is almost 30 years that we’ve been there, and for me this movie was going back to my family.” And it’s not that Banderas didn’t want to return to his family all these years. It’s just that something always got in the way: “We’ve had the opportunity to work together a couple of times, but I was attached to other movies so legally I couldn’t get out of those projects in order to go and make his,” he explains.
Since 1990’s “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!” he’s become an international star, of course, finding success in Hollywood — though that’s not necessarily the path Almodóvar would’ve chosen. “Of course, he would’ve loved for me to stay in Spain and play only in his movies,” Banderas says with a laugh. “But he had to understand, at the same time, because he’s my friend and I have to fly and I have to do different things. He’s really happy that I came here and I made a career that was different to the one that I had there.”
But re-teaming with his old friend meant he had to do a decent amount of un-learning — even when it came to what he’d learned working with Almodóvar himself. “What he doesn’t like is that you arrive to rehearsals and you put on the table a bag filled with all the experiences you have been accumulating with other people and other movies, because he’s going to take that bag and he’s going to open the window and throw it out,” Banderas remembers. “He’s going to say, ‘We’re going to start from scratch. We’re going to start from the beginning. And that’s the way that we used to work in the ’80s, Antonio. That’s the way we’re going to do it now. And if you think that I called you because I want you to do something that you already did in the 80s — like in Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! or Law of Desire — you’re wrong.’”
It’s a sacrifice worth making, Banderas insists. “Pedro is a genre in himself,” he says, a hushed reverence creeping into his voice. “Pedro has been breaking the rules of the movies since he started working, and the reaction is always very radical,” he says. “People love the movie and they just want to put us on an altar, or they crucify us.” The reason for that, he suggests, is that Almodóvar makes films that need time to reach full resonance, something he’s seen with “the Skin I Live In,” which has been out in Europe for nearly two months already. “You need time to metabolize his language. You need time to digest and to put together what he’s thrown at you. It stays there, it makes you reflect a lot,” he says. “That doesn’t happen with mainstream movies. You enjoy the two hours, but five minutes after you leave the theater it’s gone. It just flies away out of your mind.”
Banderas vs. Banderas at the Box Office
Banderas has been pulling double duty lately, promoting both “the Skin I Live In” as well as “Puss in Boots,” out in early November. The films — a reunion with virtuoso director Pedro Almadovar and an animated “Shrek” spin-off — have very little to do with each other. And that’s just how Banderas likes it. “It’s kind of a metaphor now of what my career has been all about, just to have two products so unbelievably different,” he says.
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“I think movies serve many different purposes,” Banderas explains. “I cannot ask a guy who has been working as a mechanic the whole entire week just to go on Saturday to watch ‘8½’ or a movie like this because maybe what he needs that weekend is just to go with his girlfriend and take a big bucket of popcorn and just enjoy a movie that is going to make him laugh and go home with a big smile on his face. But there are other people, too, that love to go to the movies and watch something that is like this.”
As for which film he’d pick if it was him in the theater lobby? “I would go first to see this one, and then I would go, just to detox, to see ‘Puss in Boots,’” Banderas says. “That would be the order.”