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Shrek The Third - Antonio Banderas interview

Antonio Banderas, of Shrek The Third fame

Interview by Rob Carnevale

ANTONIO Banderas talks about the pleasure he gets from playing Puss in Boots, plans for a spin-off movie and why he likes to become involved with other films that raise awareness of real-life issues and concerns.

He also gives us an insight into his views of Hollywood and why signing on for any Shrek film is pretty much a no-brainer…

Q. How much input do you have in the characterisation?
Antonio Banderas: Actually, when I went to the studio for the first time and I saw the first drawings of Puss in Boots, I had the same reaction as audiences had later on. I just saw him with that little face and said exactly what everybody says: “Oh my God, he’s so cute, I wanna be him.”

I think the good decision at the beginning was to go for a voice that actually doesn’t fit in that body. In another type of movie, a more classical animation, the voice would probably have been one that fitted the body, something a little bit like this [does high voice] but we didn’t want to go there. We provided him with the voice of a Casanova, a Don Giovanni. The character is in many ways irreverent and manipulative, but at the same time cute. So that contrast is the source of comedy for the character.

At the beginning in number two, we had to introduce the character because it came into the movie to break the group. But in a way, the two characters, Donkey and the cat, are very similar, and they share some stuff. One of the things they share that I love very much is their loneliness. They’re solitary characters, they don’t have anybody around, so they have to go and fight very strongly to conquer Shrek as their only friend. They have these things in common, though Donkey is stupidly happy and my character is a little bit more sly – he knows how to obtain things. Little by little the concept of the character was forming in the part. At the beginning, when they called me, I felt seriously he was going to be a recurring character, that he was not going to have this projection, but the character connected very well with audiences.

Q. Rumour has it that Puss in Boots’ is getting his own spin-off, is that true and what does Donkey have to say about that?
Antonio Banderas: Oh yeah, he doesn’t have his own movie! That was coming from the cat, actually… It seems it’s going to happen. We have the script already but I haven’t had the opportunity to read it yet. The things I’ve heard are what I’d like the movie to be. We’re going to see his story, since the time he was very little to the time he becomes an ogre-killer and just to unplug all his history. We’re going to see why he became what he became. I heard that not only is it very funny, but it could be very emotional as well. It’ll be made by the same team, which is fabulous, because I love to be in this family. And Chris [Miller] will probably be the director.

Q. You’ve directed a film, you’re in Bordertown and you’re in Shrek as a loveable character – in which way do each of these roles fulfil you as an artist?
Antonio Banderas: One of the things that I’ve got from Hollywood is the possibility of becoming a very eclectic actor and doing many different genres and characters. I’ve done since I arrived in America practically every genre – horror movies like Interview With The Vampire, musicals like Evita, adventures like Zorro, action like Desperado. I directed my first movie there, I went to Broadway, I’ve done a number of things. Directing for me is a very personal issue. It’s something that I will probably never do in America. I’d do it in the south of Spain, my own country. I have this theory that less money means more freedom to create whatever is in my mind and in my heart. I consider it to be something that is very personal.

Bordertown is one of those movies that was highly criticised at the Berlin Film Festival, though I would love to do it again, because of the issues we were treating. It was very important for me to participate in a movie that put a spotlight on the issues going on in the north of Mexico, in Ciudad Juarez. I have done this type of participation-movie before, like Imagining Argentina, which also was not very well treated at the Venice Film Festival. Also House Of The Spirits – movies that are very social. Even though the cinematic results of the movie were not well accepted, I will do it again.

In the case of Bordertown, I said “no” [at first] because I was preparing my own movie, but Jennifer called me, and believe me she can be very persuasive. I said “no” again, but then the reason I did the movie was because I received a kind of book, a parcel, from the mothers of some of the disappeared girls in Ciudad Juarez, with pieces of some of the clothes they were wearing on the night they disappeared, some pictures, some poems, and a letter that asked me to put my name to their cause, so I did. I just postponed a little bit of the work that I was doing in Spain, and went to Albuquerque, and spent a week of my life doing something that I thought was interesting for someone else.

Now, all of this put together with Puss in Boots, and my situation in Hollywood, I’ve pictured myself pretty much like those comedians from the old days, that they were with a chariot, and they have repertoire in the afternoon, in the evening they would play comedy, at night they would do Shakespeare. I love that possibility of just changing and playing in many different turfs.

Q. What pressure do you feel under because of the standards Shrek has set itself, and how long can you keep the series going?
Antonio Banderas: I think it’s the audience who will decide that… As much as you see they are demanding more stories from Shrek, we are going to be more than happy to do it. Nobody in his right mind would reject to do something like that.