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Behind the Mask

Antonio Banderas opens up on marriage, politics and his best roles.
Betsy Model
From the Print Edition:
Antonio Banderas, Nov/Dec 2005

(continued from page 2)

But Banderas was taking big risks at a time in his career when most wouldn't have. As a result, there were interesting choices with interesting results between his success with Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

In between the two Rodriguez films, Banderas—now a hot item in both Hollywood and European-produced films—felt he could afford to play with some experimental (and often forgettable) scripts such as 1995's Four Rooms (his second appearance in a film with both Madonna and Salma Hayek), Never Talk to Strangers (1995), a weakly erotic thriller and Assassins (1995), a violent shoot-'em-up opposite Sly Stallone and Julianne Moore.

And then there's 1995's Two Much, an uninspired movie about a man who falls in love with two sisters at the same time and pulls a con —he assumes the identity of twin brothers—to keep the love of both. As a plot it was lamentable, but it brought him face-to-face with actress Melanie Griffith, the woman who was later to become his wife.

Griffith was married at the time to actor Don Johnson (their second time around, actually) while Banderas was married to Spanish actress Ana Leza. Both parties divorced and, a year later, Banderas and Griffith married with their daughter, Stella, born not too long after. Banderas still had a home in Madrid, but he, Griffith, their daughter and Griffith's children by her former marriages—daughter Dakota Johnson from her marriage with Don Johnson and Alexander Bauer from her marriage to actor Steven Bauer—settled into a bi-continent family unit centered primarily in Los Angeles.

According to Banderas, it has been a mostly-blessed decade with his family of five. He is always careful to refer to himself as Dakota and Alexander's "parent," as opposed to father out of deference to their natural fathers but says that he loves and is proud of both his step-children.

He describes Dakota, now 16, as "...a handful who is at that point where you're never clear whether you should bring her home a toy, a doll, or whether she's going to come home bringing a boy! She's just discovered her power over boys and," Banderas sighs, "has discovered that she can snap her fingers and have guys in a millisecond."

Alexander, now 21, he describes differently, saying that they've evolved almost into friends who go to movies and ski together. "When I first met Melanie there was distance, surely," Banderas acknowledges. "I mean he was nine then, there was a distance in the beginning, a 'who is this guy who is going to bed with my momma?' thing, so I made sure that we went slowly at first. Now, now it's great. We go motorbiking together at the little house in Aspen."

The "little house" in Aspen is, in fact, a major villa that the family bought a few years ago primarily for winter skiing. The whole family skis, including Stella who, according to a beaming Banderas, "...skis better than I do sometimes, takes the same runs, the same black diamond runs."

Although Banderas says they used the Aspen house this summer for a couple of weeks, they really spend the majority of their time split between the home in Los Angeles and the home he's relaxing in right now, the oceanfront villa in Marbella. If the home's location is the worst-kept secret in all of Andalusia, gaining access to the house means running a gauntlet of paparazzi permanently camped out in front of the gates followed by an intimidating once-over by both security and household personnel.

And then there's Boots. One of five dogs and three cats that call the various Banderas homes home, Boots is a 75-lb. golden Labrador who bounds out of nowhere to confront the newcomer. After a thorough inspection of hands, pockets and briefcase, the Lab decides to show approval by standing on his hind legs and licking the guest's face to the point where there's a running joke about the lingering scent of "eau de Boots" for the remainder of the afternoon.

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