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Antonio Banderas: 1960—: Actor, Director

Made American Film Debut

In 1992 American director Arne Glimcher cast Banderas opposite Armand Assante in The Mambo Kings, even though Banderas knew very little English. Determined to conquer the language barrier and break into the U.S. film industry, Banderas learned all of his lines phonetically and took intensive lessons at a Berlitz school. His efforts paid off when he delivered a stunning and deep rendering of his lines, winning high praise for his performance.

His breakthrough Hollywood role was in the highly acclaimed 1993 film Philadelphia, in which he played Tom Hanks's sympathetic gay lover. Banderas received monumental praise for his role in the film. Soon, offers started to roll in, including a part in The House of Spirits, and the role of Armand in the high-profile production of Interview With the Vampire, starring alongside Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.

His first leading role in an American film came in 1995 when he teamed up for the first time with filmmaker Robert Rodriguez in Desperado. Banderas formed a lasting relationship with Rodriguez that led to the making of 1995's Four Rooms, a four-director experimental comedy that cast Banderas as a father trying to keep his children in line. This film would inspire his character in Spy Kids, another Rodriguez film shot several years later. During the 1990s Banderas worked at a breakneck pace, completing work on Miami Rhapsody, Never Talk to Strangers, and his biggest budget film yet, the $75 million Assassins, in which he starred alongside Sylvester Stallone. But it was the 1996 musical extravaganza Evita that surprised audiences the most. The musical, based on the Andrew Lloyd Webber Broadway phenomenon, showcased Banderas's eclectic style and gambling spirit when he sang and danced opposite Madonna as Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.

It wasn't long before Banderas commanded more than $1 million for a film and was being labeled the Latin lover. It was quite a long way from his days as a struggling actor in Madrid, when he played numerous gay roles. Banderas enjoyed the success, but was careful not to embrace his new image. "I don't think there is a guy that plays more gay characters than I have done in my life," he told Diane Sawyer in an ABC television Primetime Live interview. "I mean, that doesn't feed the Latin lover. So I never was careful of trying to—to keep an image and explode that image." Still, he has continued to be named to such lists as People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in the World and Entertainment Weekly's "It" list, which described him as "five-alarm Tabasco-hot."

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