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Antonio Banderas

In this exclusive interview, an enthusiastic Antonio Banderas celebrates the Oscar nomination of the animated short film The Lady and The Reaper, which he produced in collaboration with Granada-based Kandor Moon. The actor also takes the opportunity to review his career and relationship with Andalusia, a region filled with “born winners”.

By:  Lakshmi I. Aguirre
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Actor, director and producer
Birth: 1960 (Benalmádena, Malaga)
Location: LA
Stands out for: supporting Andalusian cinema
Did you know? he plans to return to Broadway musicals

His career began alongside Pedro Almodóvar and recently he’s been filming You will meet a tall dark stranger with Woody Allen. Over the years Antonio Banderas been ridding himself of the typecast as a sensual Latin heartthrob to become not just one of the most important Spanish actors both inside and outside Spain, but also a producer and director in his own right.

He surprised audiences with his directorial debut Crazy in Alabama (1990) and again grabbed their attention with the altogether different The Summer Rain (2006), based on a novel by Antonio Soler. Banderas is currently working with the Malaga-born writer on one of his upcoming projects, Boabdil, about the last king of Granada.

Antonio Banderas hasn’t forgotten either his roots or the people he left behind when made it in Hollywood, and he flies the flag for his native Malaga wherever he goes. This fact became palpable in 2004 when he joined forces with Antonio Meliveo, Paco Fortes, and his brother Javier D. Banderas to create the production company Green Moon.

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His role as Puss in Boots in Shrek put him in contact with a new world filled with all kinds of opportunities: animation. Green Moon soon brought Kandor Graphics under its umbrella and the Granada-based animation studio run by Raúl García and Manuel Sicilia has already found success in the Spanish film industry: The Missing Lynx (2008) won a Goya for Best Animated Film and their latest production The Lady and The Reaper (2009) received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short Film in 2010.

Q. How does it feel when small projects like The Lady and The Reaper receive international recognition in prestigious award ceremonies such as the Oscars?

A. My satisfaction is inversely proportional to the size of the film. With such a small film, it’s extremely gratifying. The project has a great team of young artists behind it who’ve been working their fingers to the bone for several years in our Granada studios.

Q. Directed by Javier Recio, the short was really an experiment in stereoscopic technology for your next project, the feature animation Goleor.

A. Yes. Selecting the next project was an entirely democratic process. The creative team proposed several stories and put their ideas on the table before voting to wok on Javier Recio’s project. Imagine! The poor guy even had to battle within his own company to be nominated! It’s really tough to get as far as he has. People fight tooth and nail at the Oscars and it’s a really competitive atmosphere. It’s a big deal to be nominated, albeit for one of the smaller awards. It’s been a privilege to share it with such a fantastic team.

Q. What’s the key to the success of The Lady and The Reaper? What convinced the jury to nominate it?

A. The film’s got two things going for it. First of all, it’s a fun story that in just seven minutes reflects on the story of a person who looks death squarely in the face rather than live in the clutches of a hot-shot doctor who wants to resuscitate her at all costs. I think it won the jury over because of the refined technology used despite the minimal budget. When I show it to people their jaws drop: “How did you do it?”. There are certain details in those seven minutes that stand out in animation terms. We decided to try out a new technology and the team has managed to make the most of it.

Q. The tragedy of death has been turned into comedy in the hands of Javier Recio. Does the world need more stories like this one?

A. Absolutely. Not only in art, but in life in general. In that sense, the film is very Andalusian. We think of death as the only certainty in life. When seen from that perspective, everything is relative. It’s the same for all the great painters and all the great poets. Death has always been a fundamental component of Andalusian culture. We live more intensely precisely because of our deep understanding of death. This short film takes a similar stance: it tries to treat the subject of death with a pinch of salt, to have a little fun as if it were saying I don’t give a damn.

Q. Why bet on Kandor Graphics in the first place?

A. Raúl García is a great animator who’s been working for years and was one of the founders of Kandor Moon. Ever since he first came to see me with his sketchbook under his arm, I was convinced. I realized at once, in the same way as other members of the academy, that this was a team who knew what they were doing. It’s also been really important for us to have the financial support of public entities such as the Regional Government of Andalusia, CajaGranada, the Ministry of Culture, as well as private companies such as Ibercaria. You’ve got to remember that we’re talking about a company made up of more than eighty workers. With the market in the way that it is, it’s incredibly satisfying to be able to pull something like this off.

Q. What other projects have you got in the pipeline?

A. I’m going to be more directly involved in Goleor taking on the role of voice direction. The voices will be recorded in English using American actors. I’m going to be calling on my friends for help. At the same time, I’ll try to impart all the skills I learned working over six years with Dreamworks to make Shrek. Their methods are really something: the actor plays a really important role despite the fact that it’s in the animated world. We’re going to film the actors so that the animators have footage from which to study small acting details that can come about when you’re doing voice recordings… It’s a method of working I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in action and I’m going to try to bring some of it with me to all the projects we do at Kandor Moon.

Q. Your projects are proving that there many opportunities on offer in the region and that it’s no longer necessary to leave in order to succeed. What do you think Andalusia has to offer to the cinema industry?

A. Plenty. Above all, the one thing that is fundamental to any artistic endeavor: talent. And that’s something Andalusia definitely isn’t lacking. When we started with Green Moon we wanted to try out new ideas, such as with Tres días directed by Javier Gutiérrez or the project we’re working on with Néstor Dennis, a young guy with the potential to make great cinema and to whom we’re going to give a big break with Días rotos. I do this because I think the region is filled with born winners. You just have to see what they do when you give them the chance to prove themselves, be it behind or in front of the camera. When it comes to support they can count on me to back them in any way that I can. And if we get the kind of results we’ve been getting up until now, even better. It gives people the chance to get on their feet. That way they’ll start to believe that it’s possible, and in this field the psychological element is fundamental. There isn’t a magic wand. The only way to make things happen in the audiovisual world is to believe it’s possible and go for it.

Q. What’s different about the Antonio Banderas who worked with Almodóvar and the Antonio Banderas who directs and produces films and stars in Woody Allen movies?

A. The essence is still the same. The drive and ambition that made me leave my homeland and become a professional is still there. I’m about to turn fifty and I’ve obviously got a lot more experience. I’m becoming more and more interested in producing and directing. I’m also really excited about my current plans to go back to Broadway. I’m going to get back on stage, which has always been my real passion. I’m no longer looking to make it to the top, fighting for prime position in the way I might’ve twenty years ago. Now I’m more interested in other things, in creating little projects out of nothing. It’s extremely satisfying.

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• Listen to part of the interview with Antonio Banderas at Tertulia Andaluza
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El 2 February 2010 a las 11:12 PM, Jorge & Uts dijo...

Felicidades por la entrevista!!

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El 3 February 2010 a las 12:33 PM, Marta dijo...

Zorionak!Gran entrevista!

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El 6 February 2010 a las 6:54 AM, Cassie dijo...

Hello! I love Antonio too!!

In answer to your question about A-Z Monday: Each Monday we post some pictures having to do with FOOD!! We have already done A and B and next Monday’s letter is C (alphabetical!). You can start with C on February 8th if you’d like. Please join us. Just let Jen, at know and she will put your blog on her sidebar so everyone can come visit you!!
I hope I explaned this okay. Thanks for visiting my blog. X-Cassie

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