The Films He Lives In — Antonio Banderas Talks Frankenstein, Taking Hostages, and Armand's Legacy

The Films He Lives In — Antonio Banderas Talks Frankenstein, Taking Hostages, and Armand's Legacy
Updated: 03-13-2012


"Except keeping a woman against her will inside a room," Banderas says of his character in Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In (on DVD now) "the rest is completely different."
The actor references many other directors’ filmographies, many other styles, but in the end he creates his own. He never wanted to do a movie with a “boo” coming at you. The horror is something more eerie and in your subconscious. "I see something like a scalpel, and if you weren’t paying attention, you wouldn’t even know that something is cutting you, and then you go, 'Oh, my god'."
When it came to references, Almodovar gave Bandaras "One movie, but it was for acting not the context, and that was THE RED CIRCLE. It’s a movie starring Alain Delon. Pedro gave me the movie because the actors were almost expressionless in drama about gangsters but there almost nothing happening to them. So there were times when Pedro referenced those actors to me, and American actors in film noir movies from the 40’s and 50’s. Characters you can read and put on them more of you, because not everything is cooked. It’s half cooked. So you can actually get into their minds."
QUESTION: What was the most difficult part of doing this role? You do, sort of, feel sorry for the character, and then that simply starts to fade and he rises and falls throughout the movie until the very end. So what was the most difficult part in playing such a complex character?
ANTONIO BANDERAS: Well, the most difficult part was understanding what we wanted to do. Where we wanted to take the character. It was Pedro who proposed that we keep the character very contained and very laid back. Almost like a white screen that the audience could write whatever their horrors were onto it. Limitless. So you don’t have the parameters of the character. You cannot measure him, and that makes him very unreadable. Because as an actor when you see the character in the script, which is bigger than life, you want to play big. That’s what you instinctively want to do, and you say something like “oh, this is a character where I really want to show muscles here.” But Pedro goes, “No, no, no!” That was one of the reasons concerning narrative. But the other reason was directly attached to the character’s personality and his psychology. These type of characters, which we’ve seen many times, in the news – serial killers – basically when they are caught by the police and are put in jail and then people interview the neighbors, they normally describe them as wonderful people. Charming guys. Well dress, well mannered. Polite. They go to church on Sundays. But they have 5 guys mutilated in the fridge. (Laughter) So, Pedro said to me, we have to go there, because these people melt effortlessly in the society, and there is a friction of hypocrisy there. It’s not how well you look. It’s what you are, and normally for the people you have around. For the people you have inside you, and the character is true. But that is because of the narrative process that he follows, which startled me when I read the script for the first time.
The first part of the movie is a question without an answer. But you start knowing that this character lost his wife, his daughter is in a mental institution, because of that problem. The guy taking care of his wife, burned in bed. So, he starts locking up this woman, like she must have done something. Because all of these older ladies are coming to him and saying, “why did you kill her?” So, Pedro starts positioning you in terms of morality in that way, and then as the story unfolds and all of these disturbing answers start coming and he takes an entire audience on a position and then again. Yet something remains from this tormented guy. But in reality, he’s a sick person. He’s a monster, but a sick guy.
Like that salad that we have on the table, there’s always floating a reflection about creation. A reflection of “yes, this guy has a monster personality”, and he has this creation and in the end you may feel like he is falling in love with her, but he’s not . He’s falling in love with himself and the masterpiece he has done. It’s kind of a sick game that he’s continuously playing in the movie. The relation of this to movies is directing. I mean, I could have in my bedroom a TV set that is like this just to check it out. No, no, no, it’s not just a TV. It is a movie screen, which he is watching this, and Pedro realized this, almost photographed this from the back. It’s almost like a director watching his own movie, and then jumps in to be part of his own movie. If you remember in the mind of the guy, he doesn’t see the possibility that this woman is taking the lead. But she does. What happens, in terms of narrative at the beginning of the movie, but in ‘real time’ happens at the end, there is a scene where she says, “why don’t we leave like two normal people?” But we’re not normal, and the guy tries to escape and she is actually saying, “I am yours”, and he cannot take this. “How is this possible? How is my creation is talking to me?” 
This guy who is playing God is attacked by his own creation and that cannot happen. There’s all of these kind of reflections in the movie aside from what it is trying to tell you specifically about the life of these particular characters.
QUESTION: Do you have that kind of passion with your own work?
ANTONIO BANDERAS: I do. I have passion with my work. Pedro gave me a key when we were doing the press conference at the Cannes Film Festival, and it’s true. Directing movies makes you think very much. He says, “directing movies is like becoming God.” Why? Because you create a universe in which you established the rules, the rhythm and the codes that you’re going to follow. Pedro specifically has been breaking the rules of movies since he started working, and the reaction of the audience is often very radical. They love movies and put us on that alter, or they want to crucify us. Because you need time to metabolize and digest what he has thrown at you. One of the reactions that many people had to this movie in Europe is that the movie travels with them, with audience following for two or three days. It stays there and sometimes you are afraid to look. That doesn’t happen with mainstream movies. You enjoy the 2 hours, but five minutes after you leave the theater, it is gone. It just flies away out of your mind. But this type of movie is very disturbing, not only because of the issue that he’s talking about, but also the way he tells you the story.
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Interview by Staci Layne Wilson


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