Antonio Banderas talks The Skin I Live In

Antonio Banderas reunited last year with his discoverer and collaborator Pedro Almodovar to make their fifth film together The Skin I Live In - twenty years after their last project. 

Banderas says they had new challenges to face this time and a new ideology that astonished him.  Their project, a contemporary horror thriller in the realm of plastic surgery and the obsession with perfection took them to new artistic heights.

We spoke with Banderas about renewing their process.

M&C: How is it different working with Almodovar than more conventional filmmakers?

Banderas:  You have people like Pedro and Von trier who love to go to different places and explore intricate paces.  Its different narratives.  Pedro knows what the audience may love from him, but itís not in his nature to always do that.  He keeps turning the wheel. 

The feeling on the set was dangerous.  I have to recognize that after many years in Hollywood and content with some of the work Iíve done there, it was difficult going back to Pedro but at this time in my life is like a Coca Cola in the desert.  It feels good.

M&C: Did working in Spanish again remove the language barrier you felt in American films?

Banderas:  I have to work less and the language comfortable.  When you work in a different language you are not so attached to the words.  The words have psychological impact.  Something simple like in In Mambo Kings, I say ďI love youĒ and it was very easy for me.  In Spanish itís a different interpretation.  

Always when you go to a new country and they teach you bad words, you just say them without knowing the value and people look at you because you didnít know that value of them. 

In a way in a very specific time in my life, it kind of freed me, not be too attached to the words, so intoxicated by the words.   I have to recognize that I am going back to Spain and working my own language and itís very relaxing not having the complexities that came from different places.

M&C: How did Pedro describe this surreal and disturbing film to you?

Banderas:  It was bizarre.   Pedro told me about writing a novel.  I knew the fundamental premise of the movie.  I was in New York doing a workshop and he called me on my way home.  He didnít introduce himself he just said ďItís about timeĒ. 

I asked if he had a script.  He sent it to me and Iím careful because I know the first time I read the script, it will be the only time I will be a spectator of my own work.  

From that moment on I am contaminated and intoxicated and my head start going in different directions and passions.   And itís funny.  Because when I see people coming out of screenings they have this reaction I had when I read the script.  I was astounded.

It wasnít so much, I knew the premise, and it was the narrative process really startled me.  The game he established with time, and in the way it was crafted I knew the formal ways of the narrative became content, because during the first hour, he is positioning the spectator in terms of morality in once place. 

He throws you questions with no answers, why is this woman there, what is he relationship with him? Who is the old lady? Kill her!  What is going on? 

M&C: Why did it take so long to do?

Banderas:  In the formal aspects he became a minimalist, more austere, he used to joke on the set all the time youíre becoming Japanese.  Shut up Antonio!   Some aspects are more serious complex and profound.  It may be the nature of the movie.

In Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down, he gave me a long rope, and he accepted the things I did.  In this one, heís like ďCarefulĒ, more uncomfortable, but itís okay.  Itís like learning to ride a horse or ski once you are in synch then thatís it.  And he lets you go.

M&C: Pedro described you as a perfect vessel for all your transgressive characters.

Banderas:  There are many definitions I could use.  I remember saying to him to be convinced I would follow his instructions, I said to him ďYou are a writer, and I am a painterĒ.  

I donít know what it is but itís something that worked for us in the 80ís and now and I donít want to intellectualize, because the moment I intellectualize, I might lose it. 

And then it may not be fun so I donít want to think too much about it.  We look at each other sometimes and we just smile.  We know there is a certain connection there that works for us and thatís it, we donít need any more than that.

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Further Reading on M&C

Antonio Banderas Biography - - Antonio Banderas Movies -