His career has spanned over three decades as one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors, Antonio Banderas has starred in such diverse fare as Desperado, Spy Kids, Frida, and Shrek. Banderas brings power, talent, and passion to incite laughter or tears to an appreciative audience worldwide.
Although previously married to fellow Hollywood A-lister, Melanie Griffith, with whom they share a 21-year-old daughter, Stella, Banderas now lives a simple life In Surrey, England with his girlfriend, financial consultant, Nicole Kimpel. Eager to talk about his new project, starring as Pablo Picasso in National Geographic’s Genius, he talks legacy, destiny, and what it takes to be a true genius.
What’s your definition of genius?
I think it’s someone who breaks the rules to give us something new that was slightly better than what we had. A genius can affect a very large number of people, but they are not perfect people. They’re just human beings like us. They make a lot of mistakes. Geniuses come with a big deal of egotistical moods and arrogance. There are a number of things that are a little bit more negative than we think. We were trying to deal with all of those elements to create a character that was complex and that makes us reflect, “What is a genius?”.
What’s your genius?
I don’t know what my genius would be. Maybe surviving.
Do you think everyone is a genius at something?
I don’t think everybody has a genius. I think if you can understand life as an art and you can be curious or imaginative in any activity that you do in your life – you can be anything. You can actually be very creative but genius is some other thing.
Were you nervous to play Picasso?
I had this kind of reticence to play him. He was born in my hometown which means a lot to me. I had a certain fear to take that burden because I knew that I was going to be judged. I was afraid of failing. I was afraid of not hitting the right notes in somebody that actually I idolised. He has been a hero to me since I was 5 years old.
Picasso was a special figure for you growing up?
Picasso was the only hero that we had in Malaga. He was a national hero in a time when Spain had very little heroes. Picasso was from Malaga and that was always very interesting to me you know, “Oh, there is a guy from Malaga who made it outside. He made it big!”
What did you learn from playing him?
That to be a real artist is very painful because you have to be very honest and that same honesty that makes you a great artist is the same one that becomes a misery to you. . He was booed many times in his life as a painter because he didn’t want to just follow what the people wanted to see. That kind of honesty is the same honesty that created a lot of problems for him. It’s the honesty of saying, ‘I don’t love you anymore.’ It creates a lot of problems in a world in which we don’t behave like that. We just don’t behave like that.
What’s the essence of playing Picasso?
The essence was trying to understand his personality. We know what he did. We know what he said but we don’t know why and that is very complicated. He talked very little. Picasso was kind of a more mysterious personality so he was not justifying any of the things that were said about him constantly.
Where do you like to go to relax?
I would like to go to a place where there is a sofa and a television. I am very tired now. I would like to go home because I live in hotel rooms all the time. I would like to go home and write, which I am doing lately a lot. I read, watch some movies, take long walks, take my bike and go outside with my girlfriend and see movies, the theatre. In London I see theatre which is now one of my passions.
You’ve worked with many directors. Have you worked with bad directors?
Yes, I have worked with bad directors. (laughs). It’s very difficult when that happens. You can tell they’re just going in the wrong direction but you are trapped in there. There is practically nothing you can do because the director is the one who makes decisions on set. It’s in the environment. Everybody knows the boat is sinking and there is nothing that you can do about it when that happens, but fortunately I’ve worked with great directors in my life.
Do you believe in destiny?
I don’t know, but I believe that you can build your own destiny unconsciously. I believe in what they call ‘the law of attraction’. I believe if you want something very much and you are honest with yourself, at the end you will get it. I believe in those things. What I don’t believe is that type of destiny that doesn’t have anything to do with you. When you are born and it says, ‘You are going to die in a train crash on the 21st of January of 2000 or something,’ I don’t believe that. I do believe that certain behavior can put you on the path of possibilities that certain things can happen.