In November last year, Antonio Banderas took home Spain’s top film honour – the Goya for Best Actor – for his marvellous portrayal of a sensitive film director in Almodóvar’s semi-autobiographical gem, Dolor y Gloria.

Banderas also triumphed in Cannes, winning the Best Actor award and garnering great praise from critics for stepping outside his comfort zone to portray a director who struggles against neurosis and various physical and psychological challenges. The Cannes award was his first major international accolade, though he has been nominated for various prestigious prizes throughout his long and lustrous career – including a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical (for Nine). Recently, he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in the Best Actor category.

The list of Oscar nominees will be announced on January 7; as we go to print, the answer to Almodóvar’s plea for a nomination for his favourite actor is as yet unknown. The visionary director said that, “Antonio was recognised in Cannes because his performance was no less than extraordinary… different to anything he has done before with me or with any other director.

When I spoke with him prior to filming, he instantly realised that we would be veering away from the tone we had used in previous films. This film spoke of a person in another age group; one that was facing a very different situation to that of previous characters. The Cannes award was fair but it goes beyond that. To me, this film represents the rebirth of Antonio Banderas.”

The Essential team was privileged to have recently attended a press conference with Antonio Banderas. It was in November 2019, when the actor met with the media to present A Chorus Line – the classic Broadway musical that was, in many ways, the first-ever ‘reality show’ on Broadway – since the actors played themselves in what is essentially the story of one long, emotion-packed audition.

During the press conference, he made patent that he was very much focused on bringing the bright lights of the theatre to Málaga; of turning his birthplace into a cultural hub. Despite his forays into business and direction, he continues to be an actor from head to toe. In fact, in A Chorus Line (still on this month but sold-out now for a couple of months), he plays the lead – Zach, the dance company director whose decisions make or break the future of the talented dancers whose only wish is ‘to get that job’ so they can keep making a living from dancing.

A Chorus Line did more than bring an award-winning musical to our shores; it also served to launch Antonio Banderas’ new Soho Theatre, where he plans on directing and acting in many performances. “The Soho Theatre is my baby and that is why I am performing in A Chorus Line,” he told the media. Opening such a theatre – with the support of CaixaBank – could be seen by many as a major risk, but it has certainly paid off.

Not only did the show sell out, but it also attracted the biggest names in Spanish entertainment to its official premiere – including Pedro Almodóvar himself, and his acting ‘troupe’ – Loles León, Rossy de Palma, etc. Additionally attending were Banderas’ girlfriend Nicole Kimpel and her sister Barbara, as well as influencer Paula Echevarría and footballer Miguel Torres.

At the press conference, Banderas told us he “hadn’t slept in three months,” the fruit of his frequent travels to and from the U.S. and other countries. One very much has the feeling that the U.S. symbolises work – and Málaga freedom – for this jack of all trades. To achieve all this, he has to be disciplined and organised and indeed, an anecdote by co-director of A Chorus Line, Baayork Lee, shows exactly how the man gets the job done. “We put on A Chorus Line in New York for a fundraising show, and the show was great, with many cast members plucked directly from Broadway.

Antonio was in the audience and after the show he asked to meet me regarding the possibility of putting A Chorus Line on in Málaga. The next day, at 10am, I was sitting with him and his team and it was decided that we would do the show.” Theatre is long, hard work. The casting process took weeks, but so did the workshops. A Chorus Line is a particularly challenging show that requires its performers to sing, dance, and act to a ‘10’ level, and achieving this took months – since, as you might expect, performers tend to be stronger at one talent than others.

Between his acting performances in A Chorus Line, Banderas continues to fly to and from the U.S. In early November, he accepted the Hollywood Film Awards’ Best Actor Award, handed to him by none other than Dakota Johnson – his former stepdaughter, who referred to him as ‘Papi’ as he walked up to the stage. “She still calls me Papi, and I love that. You have no idea,” he told the Daily Mail, adding, “We had 20 years of family life that was beautiful, but the best is still to come.” Banderas attended the event with his daughter, Stella del Carmen – whose mom is, of course, iconic Hollywood beauty, Melanie Griffith.

Antonio Banderas has many plans for the future, starting with the national tour of A Chorus Line (Madrid, Bilbao, and Barcelona have been confirmed thus far). At the press conference we attended, he mentioned the possibility of taking the show to the U.S. It makes sense, considering his is the Spanish version of the cult show – which would appeal to Latino viewers in particular.

He also has a string of films to be released in 2020 – including The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, Lamborghini: The Legend, and The Devil May Care. In the latter, he plays God! – which somehow seems fitting, at least from a Malagueño’s point of view. Given his natural talent and drive, it is hard to imagine that Banderas was reared up to be a pro footballer instead of an actor. A broken foot in his early teen years would put an end to those dreams but it must have been destiny – for we cannot imagine the world of film without Spain’s brightest star!