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‘Pancho’ packs punch

Banderas giddy to leap into revolutionary's role

The Great Blackout of 2003 ended in plenty of time for HBO Films to premiere “And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself” in midtown Manhattan Monday eve.

Antonio Banderas, who stars as the legendary Mexican revolutionary, and his wife, Melanie Griffith, took in the bow on their night off from their respective Broadway gigs — Griffith from “Chicago,” Banderas from “Nine.”

Also in attendance were Alan Arkin, who plays a Jewish mercenary, and Eion Bailey, who plays young movie exec Frank Thayer.

Missing, however, was “Pancho” scribe-exec producer Larry Gelbart, who canceled his plans to travel from L.A. to New York when the blackout struck late last week.

HBO Films prexy Colin Callender enthused about the missing scribe, who previously penned “Barbarians at the Gate” for the pay web, before the film unspooled.

“It is with great pleasure that we were able to lure Larry back to HBO to bring his own unique brand of wit, intelligence and mischief to the biggest single film we’ve ever made,” Callender said.

Biggest as in most expensive — HBO didn’t offer a specific dollar amount but put the cost of “Pancho” somewhere in the $20 million-$30 million range. Moviecenters on Pancho Villa’s little-known movie deal with the Mutual Film Co. Banderas reveled in the chance to play hero and villain, a first for the thesp. “That is what I liked,” Banderas said at a Mexican-themed party after the preem. “The role was a gold mine.”