CineMerit Award | Antonio Banderas

This year, FILMFEST MÜNCHEN is extending its recognition to exceptional Spanish actor Antonio Banderas in the form of a CineMerit Award. Recently honored as best actor at the Cannes Film Festival, Banderas, 58, will present his latest film, PAIN AND GLORY (2019), in Munich. Four other films that represent significant points in the actor's career will be shown alongside it.

Inspired as a teenager by the musical HAIR (1974), Banderas made the unwavering decision to become an actor. For five years, he received a broad education at ESAEM, the Performing Arts College, in Málaga before heading to Madrid.

Banderas didn't have an easy time in Madrid until he took the entrance exam for the Teatro Nacional and was accepted there. It was at this theater that he discovered his key to a movie career in the form of Pedro Almodóvar. The director, completely unknown at the time, and the young actor immediately discovered that they shared the same passion and fearlessness. The groundwork was laid for their collaboration on the wild and very sexual comedy LABYRINTH OF PASSION (1982); many more joint efforts would follow.

LAW OF DESIRE (1987), which caused a minor scandal by breaking numerous taboos, and WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN (1988), which was nominated for an Oscar, established both Banderas and Almodóvar nationally and internationally in their wake.

Before Banderas set off for Hollywood to make MAMBO KINGS (1992), however, he collaborated one more time with his favorite Spanish director on TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN! (1989). In this intense romantic drama, he plays a former mental patient named Ricky who is obsessed with the desire to marry a porn actress named Maria. To make his dream come true, he ties her to the bed in her apartment.

Fluctuating between violence and vulnerability, Banderas portrays a man driven insane by love. In DESPERADO (1995), the actor further demonstrated his ability to portray the many facets of his characters as well as their contradictory thoughts and feelings. To play the reticent antihero, he channeled all of his expression into the demeanor of the singer who seeks bloody revenge for the murder of the woman he loved. With this film, Banderas showed that he understood how to get not only Europeans, but also Americans, to go to the movies.

Banderas' own passion for music, touched upon in DESPERADO, was pursued outright in the musical EVITA (1996). As a worker named Che, he comments on the events surrounding the rise, fame, and untimely death of Eva Duartes, perhaps the most famous first lady of Argentina. The film's tremendous success cemented Banderas's reputation as an actor who mesmerizes both critics and moviegoers.

He followed this up with THE MASK OF ZORRO (1998), in which he once again dives into innumerable adventures as a vengeful hero. In a role tailor-made for Banderas, he is the seducer who not only has wit, but also a kind heart, on his side.

In his subsequent career, Banderas has been happy to collaborate with old colleagues and continue existing series of films. Yet he has never allowed himself to be typecast. He played Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros in FRIDA (2002), just as he played painter Pablo Picasso in the TV series GENIUS (2017– ), and also lent his voice to Puss in Boots in SHREK 2 (2004).

Most recently, in PAIN AND GLORY, Banderas returned to his roots as an actor and to his first director, Pedro Almodóvar. As director Salvador Mallo, an alter ego of Almodóvar, Banderas portrays his friend in subtle nuances and, as always, with captivating physicality.

Tatjana Michel

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