Picks and Pans Review: Spotlight On...
WHAT IS IT ABOUT ANTONIO BANDERAS? To all appearances, the 35-year-old Spanish actor is a major star. Two weeks ago he made international headlines with his marriage to Melanie Griffith, and with those bedroom eyes—and hair, lips and torso—he can always be found on Hollywood's short list of sex symbols. "He comes into our lives like Valentino in the '20s," says Richard Donner, the veteran director (Superman, Lethal Weapon) who cast Banderas and Sylvester Stallone as rival hit men in last year's Assassins. But since making his Hollywood debut in 1992's The Mambo Kings, Banderas—playing everything from nurse (Miami Rhapsody) to potential psycho (Never Talk to Strangers) to twins (Two Much)—has been a big box office disappointment.
Actually, that's being nice. Two Much made $1.1 million. And his latest film, Of Love and Shadows, is getting only a limited release. (Valentino, by the way, had just five years of superstardom before dying of peritonitis in 1926.)
Banderas can boast of one modest hit, Desperado, which cost $7 million and earned $25 million domestically. But Donner feels Banderas can't be blamed for losers like Assassins. "There's so much that can go wrong when you're making a movie," he says. "A picture is a picture. If it's not there, nobody's going to come." Rhapsody director David Frankel agrees but adds, "There are people looking at his track record and saying, 'Geez, he's expensive, and what do we get for it?' "
For roughly $4 million, Banderas offers a smoldering presence and a very un-Hollywood attitude about career management. "All he does is work," says Frankel. In Spain, where he began acting at 14 and ranks as the preeminent male star, Banderas has some 40 movie credits. His films there with director Pedro Almodovar (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!) were what first brought him to the attention of American audiences. But now that Hollywood's got 'im, says Rhapsody casting director Rene Rousselot, "he's dangerously close to being overexposed. It gets a little tiring after a while."
And getting closer. He is now finishing up Evita and in July will start production on The Mask of Zorro. ("He is Zorro," says producer Elizabeth Avellan.) And there's a project in development called Hollywood Zen. He plays Valentino.
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