Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Real Reason You Don't Hear From Antonio Banderas Anymore

What do Antonio Banderas and the cone bra have in common? Aside from being the subject of exotic fantasies shared by countless gen-Xers, they were also both introduced to America in the early 1990s by Madonna, who brought the Spanish star to the attention of audiences in the States when she visited Madrid as part of her Truth or Dare documentary.

In the film, the influential "Material Girl" singer meets her long-time crush Banderas at a party (a scene in which she makes an extremely awkward pass at him in front of his wife) and admits to having seen every single film he had made in Spain up until that point. Her endorsement was enough to pique the interest of Warner Bros., who cast him in the co-lead role in their 1992 Latin music drama The Mambo Kings, though as his English was pretty much none existent, Banderas learned all of his lines phonetically and pulled the part off without knowing the language.

As his English improved so did his prospects in Hollywood, and by the time the decade came to a close films like Philadelphia, Desperado and The Mask of Zorro had made him a household name. He remained a constant on our screens in the years that followed, reprising the role of Zorro and joining big budget franchises in Shrek and Sky Kids, though in recent years his status as a genuine A-lister has come into question. We don't really hear much from Banderas nowadays, and here's why.

He's been pigeon-holed as the Latin Lover

Banderas only got into acting after a chance encounter with director Pedro Almodóvar, who ignited a passion in him with a passing comment. "You have a very romantic face," he told Banderas as he walked by him in the street. "You should do movies." The enigmatic filmmaker ended up taking Banderas under his wing and would cast him in five of his films, in which he played everything from the gay son of a politician in 1987's Law of Desire to a mental patient who kidnaps a porn star in 1990's Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!

After making the move to Hollywood, those edgier parts came his way less and less, and before long all anyone knew Antonio Banderas as was the Latin Lover with the sexy voice. It's a tag that has followed him his entire career, limiting opportunities to show his range. Even in movies like Spy Kids, every time he enters a room a Spanish guitar announces his arrival, something that didn't go unnoticed by frustrated Latin film fans who see Banderas getting "comfortable" being stereotyped.

You can't really blame him, though. Studies have shown that Latino representation in English language film and television hasn't improved since the 1950s, and Arenas Entertainment CEO Santiago Pozo believes the problem runs deep off-camera, too. "How many Latino names do you see in the movie credits?" he asked. "How many Latino names do you see as movie studio executives?"

His attempts to shake that typecast haven't gone well

Banderas has taken on some roles that require a little more than smoldering looks and a velvety voice in recent years, though the results haven't been great. In 2011 he reunited with his mentor Almodóvar for critically acclaimed Spanish language thriller The Skin I Live In, marking a shift away from the kind of roles Hollywood audiences had come to know him for. Banderas' performance as a calculating plastic surgeon was praised in the U.S. Veteran film critic Roger Ebert wrote that the leading man showed a "rare intensity" in the role.

In the years since his reunion with Almodóvar, however, the critics have not been as kind. Of the last ten Antonio Banderas movies reviewed on Rotten Tomatoes, eight of them have scores of less than 50 percent, with the website's extensive network of critics largely unreceptive to the actor's efforts to break the mold.

In 2014, he turned up in The Expendables 3 looking to work on his action chops, but the film was dismissed as a "parade of uninspired cameos and listless violence" by Vulture, and the verdict was just as bad when Banderas took on the lead role in Automata later that year. In their review of the dreary apocalyptic sci-fi, The Wrap said that Banderas was "all wrong" for the part, criticizing him for being "shouty where he should be stern, confused where he should be clued in."

He sold his cool factor for a payday

When Banderas signed on to do his first voice over work for 2004's Shrek 2, he could have had little idea just how popular the character of Puss in Boots would become. The ginger street cat (a parody of the legendary Zorro, whom Banderas played twice) became a huge hit with audiences, and in 2011 he was given his own spin-off prequel. It grossed over half a billion dollars at the worldwide box office and was quite the payday for Banderas, who had once been told by a fellow Latino that he would never play the good guy.

"I remember Hispanics told me that if I was going to stay in Hollywood I had to be the bad guy," Banderas said. "The studios couldn't conceive of the possibility of creating Hispanic heroes and having an Anglo as the villain." But even if his intentions were to show that Latin actors could anchor a big Hollywood production, Puss In Boots essentially made a joke of the type of swashbuckling characters early Banderas fans loved him for, and he further alienated himself from them with his hokey Nasonex commercial.

The ad not only reminded movie studios and fans that Banderas had become a satire of his sexy self, it brought some unwanted negative publicity when the company behind the medicine were criticized in a study that claimed Banderas' bee character was a ploy to distract consumers from the side effects of Nasonex.

He dedicates a lot of time to other pursuits

Banderas has a long standing stake in the perfume industry, having created his own line of fragrances alongside Spanish fashion and cosmetics giant Puig. They have been releasing new scents together since 1997 when their debut effort Diavolo for Men became an instant hit in Chile, Argentina, Russia, and his native Spain, though his involvement never seemed to impact his film output. The same cannot be said for his recent fascination with fashion, however.

In what GQ described as a "curveball career move," Banderas announced in 2015 that he had signed up as a student at famous London fashion school Central St. Martins, encouraged to pursue his interest in the field by friends at Puig. While he insisted that he still had time to be active in the movie industry, Banderas said that "there were other things in my life that I was interested in," and unlike many celebs who move into fashion he is choosing to do it the time-consuming way, from the ground up.

On top of his fragrance and fashion side gigs, he has to find time to fulfill his duties as a United Nations Development Program Goodwill Ambassador in the fight against poverty. He also has his own foundation Tears and Favors, which provides support to cancer patients. In other words, we don't see him so much any more because he's super busy with his commitments away from Hollywood.

The failure of The 33 was a big blow

The story of the 33 Chilean miners trapped half a mile underground for a staggering 69 days had movie written all over it from the moment the last of the men was hoisted free. Five years after the ordeal, Antonio Banderas led a cast in The 33, a film based on their harrowing experience that was supposed to bring this amazing rescue story to life and remind everyone (especially the Academy) that Banderas was still a genuine A-list talent. The movie was strategically released in November to generate maximum Oscar buzz, but it failed to impress critics and proved not to be the comeback vehicle Banderas hoped for.

What was supposed to be a tale of triumph had actually turned out to be bittersweet by this point, as details of what had become of the miners since their high profile rescue began to emerge.  "People saw the pictures of the rescue and they thought our hell was over. In fact it was just beginning," head miner Mario Sepulveda said.

Dubbed Super Mario by the media, Sepulveda was seen as a natural focal point for the film, but despite meeting Banderas before the portrayal, Sepulveda decided not to attend the premiere in protest. "Everyone got something out of it except us," he continued. "When they took us to Disneyland or Manchester United it wasn't a happy time. We were on show. People got good publicity but it didn't put food on my table."

He's been busy reinventing himself after his divorce

In 2014, Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas released a joint statement confirming that they were bringing their near-two decades of marriage to a close, and the couple divorced amicably soon after. Although it was she who initiated proceedings citing "irreconcilable differences," Griffith (who was in and out of rehab for prescription drug addictions over the course of the marriage) recently shouldered some of the blame for their separation. "Nobody else is to blame," she said. "It's just that I personally got stuck and I won't let that happen again. I want to enjoy life, I want to do whatever I want to do."

Banderas saw this as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf himself, and has been busy spending quality time with family in an attempt to reinvent himself. "My life changed very much during the last two years, personal reasons," he admitted. "The possibility of reinventing myself was there, and so I said 'Probably this is the moment that I can do this.'" 

Despite rumors that Fifty Shades of Grey star Dakota Johnson (Griffith's daughter with ex Don Johnson, raised by Banderas) was furious with her step-dad over the split, Banderas revealed that both Dakota and his biological daughter Stella helped him get through the process. "I told my kids sometimes, but in fact, the reality is I learned from them more. They were not very obedient, but I learn from them."

He gave up America for the UK

In 2015, Banderas left the bright lights of Hollywood behind to head back to his native Europe, but he didn't return to his home town of Málaga, instead he settled in the UK countryside. He currently lives with his Dutch girlfriend Nicole Kempel in a tailor made eco-mansion that set him back more than $3 million, though the "magical" setting is perfect for his new direction in life.

"This house gives me the simplicity and freedom I need in my life at the moment," he said. "I find Surrey magical. I go cycling in the woods and everyone in Cobham, Weybridge and Esher is incredibly friendly. Above all, I am surrounded by nature. I love watching the deer and foxes that come to my garden."

Looking back, it's hardly surprisingly that Banderas chose to leave the States, as a few years earlier he and his then-wife Melanie Griffith tried to buy an apartment in world famous New York apartment building "The Dakota" only to be turned away because Banderas was Hispanic, according to a lawsuit. Former president Alphonse Fletcher Jr. revealed that the board made cruel jokes about Banderas upon receiving his application, claiming he wanted a first floor apartment so it would be easier to buy drugs off the street.

His health recently became a concern

In January 2017, Banderas was rushed to a hospital near his home in England after suffering "agonizing" pain in his chest during a workout. The Spanish star initially dismissed the incident as an "episode" and tweeted a photo of himself and girlfriend Nicole Kempel with the caption "Enjoying nature after a little startle." He later confirmed that it was indeed a heart attack, and that he had to go under the knife to fix the problem.

Banderas blamed his recent health problems on the fact that he is a "workaholic," revealing as much, ironically, on his return to work. The actor has refused to stay in his sick bed following the scare, preferring to carry on with business as usual. He showed up at the Málaga Film Festival in March, where he explained why he didn't reveal the full truth in the beginning.  "It was a benign attack," he said. "It hasn't caused any permanent damage and now I'm in a recovery period. It's something that happens every day to a lot of people. I didn't hide it, but I didn't want it to receive more importance than those suffered by other people."

While everyone in Hollywood will no doubt be happy to hear that Banderas seems to be over the worst of it, studio execs may think twice before casting him in a role that requires any kind of longevity, which is a real shame for both the actor and his fans alike.

People thought he had died

Celebrity death hoaxes are worryingly common nowadays, with social media making it relatively easy for a person to start a lie and watch it snowball out of control. Paul McCartney, Jackie Chan, and Robert Redford (who was falsely reported to have died in a golf buggy accident last year) have all been affected by this grim phenomenon and, following his heart scare months earlier, Banderas became an easy target. Almost a million people liked a Facebook page titled "R.I.P. Antonio Banderas," which was reportedly created in May 2017 with the following description:

"At about 11 a.m. ET on Thursday (May 18, 2017), our beloved actor Antonio Banderas passed away. Antonio Banderas was born on October 10, 1960 in Málaga. He will be missed but not forgotten. Please show your sympathy and condolences by commenting on and liking this page."

While the Facebook page is no longer active, some websites still haven't removed reports that the actor passed away aged 56 following complications with his ticker, though the Spaniard has informed the press both in Hollywood and at home that rumors of his untimely demise have been grossly exaggerated. "I suffered a heart attack on Jan. 26, but it wasn't serious and hasn't caused any damage," he told Spanish reporters. "It hasn't been as dramatic as some have written." The actor confirmed that he underwent a procedure to put three stents in his heart, so hopefully he'll be around for a good few years yet.

What's next?

One reason that Banderas chose to move to a quiet, leafy corner of the UK was the amount of time he'd have to spend on his writing. "I am not a party person anymore so I have the space and peace to write and really get inside my own head," he said. "I'm working on several scripts." 

In 2013, Banderas told Variety that he had written a film about an African boy taking refuge with an American woman in Spain. That woman was going to be played by Melanie Griffith with Banderas himself directing, though when their marriage died so did the project. Whether any of the screenplays he is currently writing will come to fruition is anyone's guess, but what we do know is that Banderas hasn't given up the ghost on acting quite yet.

According to his IMDb page, Banderas has three feature films in post-production, all of which are targeting 2017 releases. He will star alongside Adrien Brody and John Malkovich in a "Reservoir Dogs-style thriller" called Unchained, play an aging rock star searching for his abducted wife in Thailand for crowdfunded action comedy Salty, and take a vow of silence until he finds his wife's killer in revenge flick Stoic, the filming of which left him with a pretty nasty black eye. He might have been out of the picture for a while, but Banderas looks like he has enough left in the tank for one last role of the dice.