Antonio Banderas’ Spanish-language comedy aims to give you an idea – if an extremely heightened one. “Official Competition” (in theaters Friday) follows two egotistical actors – Félix (Banderas), a blockbuster star, and Iván (Oscar Martinez), an intensely serious thespian – who clash on the set of a new film that’s fittingly titled “Rivalry.”
Penélope Cruz, who plays the movie’s eccentric director, brought the project to her friend and former co-star Banderas, who says he was drawn to the “very intelligent” and “slightly exaggerated” premise. Both actors contributed to the script, telling the writers and directors stories of diva antics they’ve witnessed on film sets.
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“We told them about things that have happened to us in rehearsals or during shooting,” Banderas says. “In the movies I’ve done, I don’t remember confrontations of that level (of Félix and Iván), but we have seen that type of behavior.”
Banderas, 61, tells us more about his upcoming roles in sequels to “Puss in Boots” and “Indiana Jones,” and teases a potential “Zorro” from Quentin Tarantino.
Question: There’s a memorable scene where Félix and Iván are wrapped in plastic and forced to watch all their awards be destroyed. How would you handle that?
Antonio Banderas: In this movie, I had more problems laughing in the middle of a scene than I’ve ever had in my life. Fortunately, we were wrapped in plastic, so you couldn’t see us laughing. But when I look at the awards I have received in my life, it’s just memories. You can see your life through them: “I was here, I was there at a particular time.” In reality, the object can be destroyed, but not the award itself. If you receive a recognition at some point in your career, that would be there whether you had the object or not.
Q: In another scene, your characters rehearse under a giant boulder that’s hanging from a crane. What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever been asked to do for a job?
Banderas: Maybe the craziest thing I have done was in an audition. I cannot say the name of that person because it’s a very famous person, but they called me to do a comedy in which my character became a dog. So I was doing an audition in which they were throwing pieces of bread at me again and again for, like, 10 minutes that I had to catch with my mouth. I have never felt so ridiculous in my life. I was thinking, “What am I doing here?” I spent four years in (acting school) trying to perfect my skills and here I am, barking and catching pieces of bread.
Q: Iván ultimately realizes there is value in big franchise movies, as well as prestige dramas. Having worked in both types of films, is there one you’re more comfortable with?
Banderas: In the times we are living (in), it’s almost part of our responsibility as creators to make people laugh. It’s very difficult for an actor who played good comedy to win awards. It seems (the Academy) only awards drama. But a lot of good comedians are very reflective people who analyze the complexities of the human spirit and can actually laugh about it. For whatever reason in our profession, it seems like a secondary step to excellence. I totally disagree. I’ve done both, but I would actually like to make more comedy. I get really bored doing action movies. (Laughs.)
Q: Speaking of comedies, what can you tease about the animated “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” (in theaters Dec. 21)?
Banderas: We finished (recording) a couple weeks ago and they said to me, “Do you want to see a little bit of it?” And what they did is very interesting: Puss has nine lives and he realizes at the beginning of the movie that he only has one left. So the whole movie reflects about life itself in a very beautiful way. They showed me scenes where I got tears in my eyes. That hero (Puss) once was, now he’s apprehensive and you can see the fear. I thought it was very intelligently put together.
Q: Puss in Boots plays off your Zorro persona. Would you be interested in making another Zorro film?
Banderas: I don’t know. If I do Zorro again, I would actually be the character played by Anthony Hopkins in the first one. (Laughs.) I’m gonna turn 62 this summer, so I don’t know if I can play that character in the same way I used to.
Q: In 2014, Quentin Tarantino expressed interest in a Zorro crossover movie co-starring Jamie Foxx as his “Django Unchained” character. Did he ever approach you about it?
Banderas: He talked to me, I think on the Oscar night (in 2020) when I was nominated for “Pain and Glory.” We saw each other at one of those parties. He just came up to me and I was like, “In your hands? Yeah, man!” Because Quentin just has that nature to do those type of movies and give them quality. Even if they are based on those types of B-movies of the ’60s and ’70s, he can take that material and do something really interesting. We’ve never worked together, but it would be great because of him, because of Jamie Foxx and because of (playing) Zorro again when he’s a little bit older. It would be fantastic and funny and crazy.
Q: You’re appearing in “Indiana Jones 5” with Harrison Ford next year. What was it like seeing him don the hat and whip again at 79 years old?
Banderas: So unbelievable. The first day I arrived, I was in the makeup trailer, and I turned around and there he was in the full Indiana costume with the hat and the whip. Phoebe Waller-Bridge was there with him, too, and it was so cool. I still remember the first time I saw Indiana Jones in a theater and the crowd was crazy about it. I thought, “This is like going back to the old adventure (movies) in a completely different way.” What I can tell you about my character is he’s not a bad guy. He’s a friend of Indiana. He’s not the biggest character in the movie, but I don’t care. I just like to be part of that.