Roundtable Interview With Antonio Banderas On The Skin I Live In

Antonio Banderas stars in the controversial new film The Skin I Live In. Directed by Pedro Almodovar, the film deals with issues such as revenge, love and survival. Banderas plays a brilliant plastic surgeon who must reconcile his sense of revenge with delusions of grandeur.

Over the weekend, he took a moment to talk to us about the challenge of the role as well as his impressive career and how he developed such a complex character for the film.

Check it out below.

Question: Are you aware that next week you’ll be competing with Puss ‘N Boots?

Antonio Banderas: That’s the story of my life (laughter). It’s kind of a metaphor now of what my career has been all about, to have two products so very, very different. I think the movie serves many different purposes. From the most light and frivolous comedies to movies that reflect more about the human condition, the human spirit and everything in the middle.

If they are made with honesty and dignity, they are all legitimate. I cannot ask a guy who has been working as a mechanic the whole week to go and watch a movie like 8 And A Half or a movie like this. Maybe what he needs is to go out with his girlfriend, take a big bucket of popcorn and just enjoy a movie that will make him laugh and go home with a big smile on his face. Then, there are other people who love to go to the movies and watch something that is like this movie that we are presenting.

Question: So, which movie would you choose if you had to choose one or the other?

Antonio Banderas: I would go first to The Skin I Live In and then to detox, I would go see Puss ‘N Boots. That would be the order (laughs).

Question: You’ve managed to divide your career into the commercial and the critical. It seems Pedro (Almodovar) hasn’t been able to do that. Did he ever tell you that you shouldn’t do movies like Puss ‘N Boots?

Antonio Banderas: Pedro, he would love for me to stay in Spain and act only on his movies (Laughter). Because he’s my friend, he knows that I have to fly and do different things. The rest of the question is interesting, because it basically has to do with creation of a character with him. What he doesn’t like is that you arrive to rehearsals and you put a bag on the table filled with all the experiences you’ve accumulated on other movies with people.

He’s going to take that bag, he’s going to open a window and throw it out. He’s going to say “We’re going to start from scratch. We’re going to start from the beginning. “That’s the way that we used to work in the ’80s, Antonio. And that’s the way we’re going to do it now. And if you think I called you because I want you to do something that you’ve done in the ’80s like Tie me up! Tie me down! or something like that, then you’re wrong. I want you to do something different.”

Question: What was the most difficult part in crafting such a complex character for this film?

Antonio Banderas: The most difficult part was understanding what we wanted to do and where we wanted to take the character. Pedro proposed that we should keep the character very contained, very laid-back, almost like a widescreen in which the audience can write whatever their horrors were. So you don’t have the parameters of the characters. You can’t measure him. That makes him very unreadable.

The other reason was directly attached to the character’s personality and his psychology. This type of character that we’ve seen in the news, serial killers especially, when they are caught and put in jail. People interviewed, neighbors usually describe them as wonderful people, charming guys, well dressed, well mannered, they went to church on Sundays. But they have five guys mutilated in the fridge. So, he said we have to do that, because the guy melts perfectly into society. There’s sort of a hypocrisy there. It’s not how you look. It’s who you are. Not only for the people you have around, but for the people you may have inside you.

Question: Do you have that kind of passion with your work, with your movies?

Antonio Banderas: Yes, I do have that passion with my work. I directed two movies and directing makes you think very much in many different aspects. Pedro said directing movies is like becoming god. Why? Because you create a universe and you establish the rules and the codes you’re going to follow. Pedro has been breaking the rules of movies since he started working and the reaction of the people is always very radical.

They love the movie and want to put it on an altar or they want to crucify it. You need time to metabolize his language. You need time to digest and to put together what he’s thrown at you. One of the reactions in Europe that many people had, it’s been open there for almost two months, is that the movie travels with them for two or three days. It makes you reflect a lot.

That doesn’t happen with mainstream movies. You enjoy the two hours, but five minutes after you left the theater, it’s gone. It just flies away out of your mind. But not this type of movie. It attacks you in a way that’s very disturbing. Not only because of the issue that he’s talking about, but also the way that he’s telling the story.

Question: Pedro has done thrillers, but this is the closest he’s done to horror. Did you discuss that with him?

Antonio Banderas: The character in Tie me up! Tie me down! was a victim from day one. Actually, there are two outcast characters: the one I kidnapped and the kidnapper and there is a moment in the movie where they recognize themselves completely and they can go together. They’ve got a future together.

In this case, there was no future, obviously because it is a game with identity and changing identity and the other person doesn’t accept it. One of the is issues about survival. We talk about horror movies, but Pedro is a genre. He captures and references many other directors, many other genres, many other styles, but at the end, he creates his own. He never wanted to do a movie with “boo” behind the corners or anything like that. The horror is something more eerie and more subconscious.

Question: How does your wife, Melanie react when she sees you in the love scenes?

Antonio Banderas: She knows that that is just a lie, because she knows that is how we shoot movies. She knows we have 150 people around. What am I going to do there? Besides being touched up by makeup artists every five seconds.

That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Antonio very much for talking with us. Be sure to check out The Skin I Live In, now in theatres.