Every year, when the People sexiest man alive is released, a friend and I say, “But Antonio Banderas isn’t dead yet!” There are many kinds of attractive, and Banderas is solidly in the “sexy” camp, which actual honoree Matt Damon, Gods love him, is not. Goodness knows there’s more to him than just that, or he wouldn’t make it to this column, but despite having turned sixty this month—and getting diagnosed with Coronavirus that day—he’s still very much sexy. Fortunately, he appears to be on the mend and will hopefully continue being sexy for years to come.
For the first ten years of his career, he was acting in Spain, and in Spanish. I’m not sure I’ve seen any of those movies. But in 1992, he released his first American film, The Mambo Kings. Which I’m also not sure I’ve seen, though I’ve read the book. He sings in it, and I’ve gone out of my way to track down those songs, because the man has one hell of a singing voice. But he still didn’t speak English—certainly not enough English to do the role—and so he learned his part phonetically. And, from what I recall, received quite a lot of acclaim for the role.
He’s certainly learned English now. He continues to act in Spanish now and then, but most of his 93 movie credits are in English. (He hasn’t done much TV, and one of his TV performances is in Italian!) He retains his accent—well, he also retains his residence in southern Spain—but since the accent is at least part of the appeal, I’m sure it’s deliberate on his part. Also it’s hard to lose an accent in a language you didn’t speak until your thirties, so there’s that, too.
Apparently his least favourite of his own roles is Puss in Boots, because the attention started being on the cat and not on him. He’d rather be known as Zorro, so I’m more than happy to oblige him and not just because I haven’t seen any of the movies where he voices the cat. And if it hadn’t been Zorro, it would’ve been Che. And it if hadn’t been Che, perhaps Ahmed Ibn Fahdlan or Armand or “Man” or El Mariachi. Or Miguel Bain; I don’t think I’ve seen Assassins, but everyone’s familiar with that GIF. Even if I did animation, the cat wouldn’t be on the list.
One of the roles I’d heard he was going to be cast in and wasn’t is one of the great missed opportunities in Hollywood history—he was, I’d heard, going to be cast as the Phantom in the movie version of The Phantom of the Opera. This was, I believe, after Evita, which I love despite no one else agreeing with me much. And, yes, it would’ve taken quite the makeup job to make a hideous Antonio Banderas, and obviously they didn’t bother much with that for Gerard Butler. But at least Antonoio Banderas can both sing and act, which is not true of Gerard Butler.