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Antonio Banderas: 1960—: Actor, Director

Struggled As An Actor

Banderas enrolled in drama classes at the School of Dramatic Arts in Malaga—against the wishes of his parents, who imagined a more traditional career for their son—and joined an independent theater group. After years of suppression under Spanish dictator Franco's regime, independent theater was beginning to take root. The group traveled all over Spain with little financial support and often performed on the streets, sometimes hassled by the police and drunken onlookers. In 1981, at the age of nineteen, he moved to Madrid to further his acting career. It wasn't long before he won a place as an ensemble member in the esteemed National Theater of Spain, becoming the youngest member of the company. Being a struggling young actor, he also worked as a waiter and took small modeling jobs.

After one theater performance, he was introduced to radical young film director Pedro Almodovar. At the time, Almodovar was one of the most outrageous and talented of an emerging breed of cinematic pioneers, and he approached Banderas to help him forge a new film industry. They joined forces and made several acclaimed and sexually provocative movies beginning in the 1980s, such as Labryinth of Passion, Matador, and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! During this time he was also busy working with other Spanish directors, such as Felix Rotaeta and Rafael Moleón, making more conventional films such as The Stilts, The Pleasure of Killing, and Baton Rouge. Banderas had become a well-known actor in Spain, but it was the 1988 Almodovar hit Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown that earned him international attention and a prestigious Spanish film award nomination for Best Lead Actor.

At a Glance . . .

Born Jose Antonio Dominguez Banderas on August 10, 1960, in Malaga, Spain; son of Jose and Ana; married Ana Leza, 1988 (divorced, 1996); married Melanie Griffith, 1996; children: Estella del Carmen (second marriage). Education: Attended the School of Dramatic Arts, Spain's national theater company.

Career: Actor in more than 70 films. European film appearances include Labyrinth of Passion, Closed Case, 27 Hours, The Law of Desire, Baton Rouge, and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! English-language films include The Mambo Kings, Philadelphia, The House of Spirits, Assassins, Four Rooms, Evita, The Mask of Zorro, and Spy Kids. Directed film Crazy in Alabama, 1999; named world ambassador of tourism (with Melanie Griffith) of Spain's Andalucia region, 2002.

Awards: Golden Apple Award for Male Discovery of the Year, 1995; ALMA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film, 1998; Imagen Foundation Lasting Image Award, 1999; European Film Audience Award, 1999; ALMA Award for Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film, 1999; European Film Award for Outstanding European Achievement in World Cinema, 1999; ALMA Award for Best Director, 2000; Anthony Quinn Award for Excellence in Cinema and the Arts, 2002.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Miguel Angel Asturias: 1899-1974: Writer to Don Berrysmith Biography - Grew up in the Pacific NorthwestAntonio Banderas: 1960—: Actor, Director Biography - Struggled As An Actor, Made American Film Debut, Married Melanie Griffith, Developed Eclectic Style