On the back of many action-oriented roles back in Hollywood (“The Expendables 3,” “Machete Kills,” “Haywire”), Antonio Banderas dropped by the Zurich Film Festival on Friday to talk, amongst other things, about his new film “Automata.” Directed by Spanish filmmaker Gabe Ibáñez, the film is set on a post-apocalyptic Earth in which subservient robots start altering themselves and finding a conscience of their own.
Banderas has recently spoken out about his desire to return to his native Spain where he claims the offers he receives are much less limited than they are in the States, largely due to his accent and ethnicity. Not content with merely starring in a film, Banderas is also credited as a producer on “Automata,” a responsibility he has proved keener to shoulder in recent times, while simultaneously looking for talented Spanish voices to promote.
When questioned about the reasons for which he signed up on “Automata,” Banderas claims that, apart from his interest in the subject, it was upon meeting with Ibáñez, whose “seriousness” and “how coherent he was in what he intended to do” immediately struck Banderas. The actor boldly stated that he believed his 35 year experience in the business allowed him to recognize “when somebody has something interesting to say.”
The greatest challenge, in his mind, was to make a science-fiction film with only 5 million euros. He was quick to berate Hollywood’s tendency to play it safe, arguing that “whether you like it or not, you have to recognize that [what we’ve tried to do with ‘Automata’] tastes different. You take a sip of this wine that we have made, and it is something that comes from American people, not from Hollywood, but the independent America. Otherwise, we’d just be making Coca Cola,” Banderas said.
On the subject of the recent batch of genre films to which he has been attached, Banderas claimed, “I actually feel more comfortable, believe it or not, doing athletic acting than wearing a tuxedo. Those make me feel very uncomfortable, the whole entire night with a bow tie, when you can’t sit to eat because you’re afraid it might wrinkle. I much prefer to be in the mud, I kind of like that.” He was nevertheless quick to point out that his next movie has him consistently wearing a tuxedo.
The actor took time to reflect on his Hollywood career, as he expressed particular pride in being one of the first Spanish actors in Hollywood to play a good guy. “I remember feeling a tickle in my stomach when I was playing Zorro and the bad guy was a blond with blue eyes and was called Captain Love,” he said, noting how gratifying it was that Latino kids got a chance to witness a hero with a Hispanic accent. “If I am proud of anything in these 24 years in Hollywood, it is that I killed some of the archetypes of my community.”
The 54-year-old also spoke a little about his upcoming projects. “It was crazy, absolutely crazy. I have no idea what he’s going to do with the day of work I did for him,” he says of his experience with Terrence Malick on his upcoming “Knight of Cups.” “He wrote a nine page monologue for me, which I had to recite and perform in nine different places.” He spoke of what Malick calls “torpedoes,” which involve sending people to improvise with Banderas in the middle of his monologues. Some examples included a girl who came up and kissed him or some old ladies who would act as if they’d known him for ever. “It was absolute freedom, like going to acting school thirty years ago.”
For Carlos Saura’s Picasso biopic “33 Diàs,” the actor trained by actually emulating some of the famous painter’s achievements. “I did the whole entire ‘Guernica,’ it took me three months, the whole nine through five meters.” An impressive achievement one wouldn’t imagine he’d be intent on attempting anew any time soon. It is perhaps to everyone’s benefit, in that case, that this eminently versatile actor claims to be a “pathological optimist.” He’s surely going to need some of that.