MADRID – Antonio Banderas is not done yet. Currently shooting “Altamira” – his first majority Spanish film in two decades, outside his own productions and collaborations with Pedro Almodóvar – Banderas, one of Spain’s biggest Hollywood success stories, imagines a future based out of New York, Madrid and his hometown Málaga in Andalusia, Spain.
That is a sign of the times. The recipient of an honorary Goya at Spain’s 2015 Academy Awards, as an actor, Banderas is currently starring – and sporting a Victorian beard for the purpose – in Hugh Hudson’s family-skewing historical drama “Altamira,” co-stars in Patricia’s Reegen’s ”The 33,” in post; appears in Paramount Pictures’ The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” and in Terrence Malick’s “Knight of Cups.”
As large questions remain about Spain’s future state financing structures, Banderas is emerging as a possible lynchpin between the U.S. industry, its finance, distribution muscle, studio facilities, and talent in his native Spain.
That is no pipedream. On Gabe Ibanez’s “Automata,” which world premiered at San Sebastián and is set in a devastated post-Apocalypse world where robots surpass human intelligence, Banderas brought on board Millennium Ent. that co-produced out of its Bulgarian Nu Boyana studios and has sold international rights.
“Looking forward to the future, I don’t want to give up my American [acting] career – it would be absolutely stupid – but do want to dedicate much more time to production and direction,” Banderas said in Madrid Friday.
Animation pic “Justin and the Knights of Valor,” which Banderas’ co-produced, underperformed in Spain, grossing €2.4 million ($3.65 million).
But Banderas’ gameplan is to continue to bet on young Spanish talent, as on Automata part of whose crew and director were Spanish, using a triple New York-Madrid-Malaga base.
“New York is a city where its life in the street and it has a dynamic culture. And physically it’s a bridge near to Los Angeles and Spain, between both universes, and I love New York theater, was well-received with “Nine” and would love to return to the theater, also as a spectator.”
Written by Olivia Hetreed (“Girl With a Pearl Earring”), and turning on the 1879 discovery of stunning pre-historic paintings in caves in northern Spain, “Altamira” is set up at Spain’s Morena Films and France’s Mare Nostrum Productions. France’s Pierre Niney – a French star after his breakout lead performance in Jalil Lespert’s “Yves Saint Laurent” – co-stars.
Banderas will play Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, a Spanish jurist and amateur archeologist who made the discovery of the Altamira Cave with his nine-year-old daughter Maria. Featuring painting of bison, horses, a doe and human hands, made with charcoal and ochre, these were the first Paleolithic cave paintings of their type to be discovered.
But French specialists, led by Emile Cartailhac, rotundly rejected Sautuola’s findings arguing that pre-historic man was incapable of artistic expression.
“Altamira” also features Rupert Everett (“Shrek 2,” “My Best Friend’s Wedding”), France’s Clement Sibony (“The Tourist,” “He Loves Me… He Loves Me Not”), Nicholas Farrell (“Bloody Sunday”), and Spanish actress Irene Escolar (“The Blind Sunflowers”), Golshifteh Farahani (Body of Lies”), Henry Goodman (“The Damned United”). ,
In the Mike Medavoy-produced “The 33,” now in post, Banderas plays a trapped Chilean miner and video host in the 2010 Copiapó mining accident. Banderas has just finished dubbing; Paramount Pictures 2015 animated/live action “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” features a guest-appearance by Banderas as pirate Burger Beard, following Banderas appearance in Spykids and big hit as Puss in Boots.
He has also appears in Terrence Malick’s “Knight of Cups”: “I can’t really say much because I didn’t understand anything when I was shooting. I shot scenes on different locations with Christian Bale, had a great time,” Banderas said.
“I was phoned the other day and asked if I didn’t mind having fifth billing which fills me with pride because it’s suggests I’m in the film.”
Banderas has “been writing a lot recently, “ is thinking of directing his third feature. He has three screenplays. “I’d like to think about directing one. Direction, however, a lot of time, maybe a year-and-a-half.”
55, dapper Friday sporting a black jersey, grey trousers and magnificently polished black shoes, Banderas looked back on his career with gratitude, even surprise.
He already said at Spain’s Sitges Festival this month that his life seemed like the stuff of science-fiction: “When I came from Malaga to Madrid in the early ‘80s, I would have been happy just holding a lance in the fifth line of extras. To come to Spain now and look back [at what has happened since] means much to me, this Goya mean a lot for me,” stimulus” for the future.
Maybe his Hollywood films helped “open a door,” he added. “In the ‘80s, Spaniards would harp on that anybody who came from abroad was better. My sortie to Hollywood perhaps helped break this certain inferiority complex, a barrier, proving we could compete with the best.”