Posted December 15, 2011 by David Watson in Features
 
 

Puss In Boots Talks


With Puss In Boots buckling his swash across UK cinemas in time for Christmas, Filmjuice caught up with stars Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek and director Chris Miller.

With Puss In Boots buckling his swash across UK cinemas in time for
Christmas, Filmjuice caught up with stars Antonio
Banderas
and Salma Hayek and
director Chris Miller.

At 52 years of age and as
devilishly handsome as ever, Spanish star Antonio Banderas is as enthusiastic
as a child when talking about Puss In Boots, who, after being the best thing in
the Shrek movies, finally gets his own spin-off film. But how much of Banderas is in the swaggering kitty?

“I adore this character,”
says Banderas. “It would be very bad for me just to say that I have
similarities with him because he has values that I really don’t.

“He’s just too courageous
and I am not that courageous in my personal life, I try to be but it’s
hard.

It’s obvious however that
Banderas and the roles he’s played over his career (well, maybe not the
Almodovar ones) have inspired the screenwriters who’ve given him a role that
fits him like a glove.

“What I would say is that
creative people, the screenwriters, our director, everybody who is involved in
the movie, they try to get from you a lot of your own personal features and so
I may have something of my character,” says Banderas.

“And they also make
reference to characters I’ve played in the past like Zorro, Desperado, The 13th Warrior. Epic characters I have played. So I suppose there is something there
and because I have been doing this for 10 years, not only just when we are
recording but also when we were travelling all around the world learning about
each other, our sense of humour, so more and more I can see a little bit more
of me every year, or every 3 years, in this character.”

Similarly, the character of
the seductive cat burglar Kitty Softpaws draws inspiration from Salma
Hayek. But there’s one thing the
sexy star of Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn and Frida would like to make perfectly
clear.

“I’m very independent and
have a great sense of adventure, I do feel like I have a lot of similarities
with my character but I want to clarify that I am not a thief. In this manner we are not alike at
all.”

“She just borrows things a
lot,” jokes director Chris Miller who plays most of the film’s incidental
characters including orphanage bully Boy Blue. “I think I get any roles in these films because I come
really cheap.

“When we make the movies we
spend a lot of time in our editorial bay, our editorial suite, and we record
what we call temp tracks for everything even before we bring in Antonio or
Salma or any other of the performers so we test material.

“So what ends up happening
is myself and my writer Tom Wheeler
will play all the boy parts and our producer Latifa Ouaou will play every woman in the film and we’ll get the
chance to see them and know how it works.”

Both actors found
inspiration in childhood heroes.

“I loved Peter Pan,” says
Banderas. “The fairytale. I didn’t know about the fairytale
actually, I saw the movie when I was very young and it had a huge impact on
me.”

He’s quick to refute though
any similarities with the Boy Who Never Grew Up.

“That doesn’t mean I have a
Peter Pan complex because I grew up and I am responsible and I have a family
but I just love the adventures.
And possibly the not growing up.
At a particular time when I was 7 or 8 years old, it was good.”

Hayek’s inspirations are
less cheery.

“More than inspire me, they
send me to the shrink,” she laughs.
“First it was Bambi, you know.
I went into a severe depression at the age of 6 because the mother dies…and
that’s it! She doesn’t come back,
she doesn’t revive there’s nothing to it.
So it confronted me with death…I’m still working on that one.

“Then there were all the
princesses. And those ones messed
me up because they make you think that there’s gonna be a prince that’s gonna
come and rescue you and if you’re sorta cute you don’t have to do much in life
which is not true. So I had to
deal with that one for a long time.

“But then came Willy Wonka
and the Chocolate Factory and this was a redemption because then somehow
something clicked in my brain and I understood that there was a place in the
world where anything could happen, where there were no limitations and the
river could be made out of chocolate and you could chew some gum that was gonna
make you fly and then you could burp yourself back to earth and this is what
made me want to be an actress because I realised there was a place in the world
called films where you could go and you had no limitations.”

So Gene Wilder changed your life?

“Gene Wilder and Antonio
Banderas.”

So why has it taken so long
for Puss to get his own film?

“I think it took just long
enough,” responds Miller. “The
idea had been out there since Puss first appeared.

“The size and scope of that
character and the personality that Antonio infused that character with just
sort of demanded it.

“And couple that with the
giant big eyes and we always felt like ‘Wow! We got a weapon of mass
destruction here,’ but it just took time.
It took a little while for the right kinda story to form. It’s all timing. We knew it was just a matter of time.”

“I’ve
played the character four times and spent almost 10 years working on the
character,” continues Banderas.
“But what I know is that it was really rewarding to see when we opened Shrek 2 and we were at the Cannes Film Festival in
competition, the movie just kind of produced twelve applauses in the middle,
you know in front of all the intellectuality of Europe.

“We were there with some very serious and
strong movies and suddenly everybody was talking about a cat. That was cool.

“And then at that time Jeffrey (Katzenberg)
started thinking about a movie. I was invited to participate in number 3
and 4.
I don’t know… I suppose at this particular time we are at that point where
audiences all around the world they’re gonna decide if the character is going
to have a longer life or not.

“It seems that we’re gonna go in that
direction. The response in the
United States has been great and it has been unbelievably surprising in Russia!
The movie is the third biggest box office in the history of Russia. So, we are
very happy with the character.”

With The Skin I Live In and Puss
in Boots, Banderas is
riding high. But how does it feel
to have audiences see him play two such different roles in the same year?

“I think movies serve many different purposes, from light comedies to
movies that reflect the complexities of the human soul. This particular year is
almost like a metaphor of my career in a way. Having these two movies come
practically one behind the other…Puss is so white and so shiny and fun, and the
other one is pitch black…it’s literally a dark, disturbing movie.”

Banderas continues: “But that is what I think
an actor, in my point of view, should accomplish. Just to have the possibility of inhabiting those very
different universes and everything in the middle.

“I mean, I just did a Steven Soderbergh movie, Haywire,
where I play a completely different character, you may not even recognise me
because I have, I’ve got a beard. It’s thick. I look like an evangelist or
something like that. And also a movie I did with Jean-Jacques Annaud that is coming out in France that is called Black Gold.

“And so, that is for me what movies are all
about. I think every movie is legitimate if they are done with honesty and
dignity. I mean, there are people working the entire week putting bricks,
building a house, or doing whatever, and they don’t want to just go and see by Federico
Fellini
at the end of the week.

“They want to see something fun, have a big
bucket of popcorn and go and see the new Spider-Man and have fun with a girlfriend.
And that’s fine. But it’s also fine that people go and see movies that
are different, that offer something more deep.”

While it’s an exciting, fun ride for kids and
adults alike, it’s the chemistry between Banderas and Hayek that makes Puss In
Boots work, a chemistry that’s been evident ever since Desperado back in 1995,
even if this time they’re not even acting in the same room.

Hayek says: “After 18
years of knowing him, and working together on all these movies and being
friends – we get together with the kids in between movies – it was not
challenging at all.

“As a matter of fact, I also
knew his character so well because when you have a four-year-old you watch
those films over and over and over and over!

“So, I felt like I had a ghost
in the recording studio talking to me because I could almost hear him saying
the lines… not to mention that Chris is such a good imitator of Antonio. So,
the relationship was very easy and it was so much fun to do it.”

Banderas continues: “We know each other very well. When I knew what lines were
coming and I knew Salma would be saying them, I knew more or less what she was
going to do with those lines, so I just tried to bounce.

“We fight very well on-screen I think. We can
produce a lot of comedy in the soft fights between a man and a woman and
knowing that her character was pretty much in the rules of what we do.

“I know Salma, she’s independent,
free-spirited, a fire and sexy of course. I knew pretty much how she was going
to play those lines. So, I just
tried to bounce that back knowing also that I was working within the parameters
and limits of my character which I think at the same time, I think you accept
that that female character is like that.
He doesn’t try to push her down or anything like that… he’s not a macho
character. I always understood him
as very open. In fact, he likes to
have a woman in front of him that can even swordfight him as hard as he can
swordfight or dance or whatever they do.”

“I’ll
tell you what was really great, though,” says Hayek. “Every time I’ve had to work with Antonio there were
bruises, cuts and pain… herniated discs in my back and all kinds of things
from all the crazy stunts that Robert
Rodriguez
gave us, which is another miracle that I’m not dead… that we
survived!

“So, to be able to have that
kind of jumping along the rooftops and to be able to be so athletic when you’re
45… to be able to have the animators do that so that you just have to put the
voice to it, so there’s no pain and you don’t have to suffer, that was so cool.”

“I
remember at the end of the second Desperado,” says Banderas. “We were hanging from a crane in Mexico 30 meters from the
ground with a very thin cable attached to some harness…“

“With that guy holding it with his hands!”
says Hayek

“We were bouncing from one side to the other
and the crane was creaking,’ continues Banderas. “We were like: ‘Oh my God, we’re going to die here!’ And
Salma starts screaming at Robert: ‘I am not a piñata!’”

Having been in each others lives for ten years
now, Banderas and Puss may not be done with each other quite yet.

“I was actually in New York doing a play on
Broadway and I remember having a meeting and being told: ‘Well, here we have a
cat that is very little, what type of voice would I use for him?’ I could have
done it like this (high pitched) and done it in that kind of voice, but I think
the choice that we made to go completely in the opposite direction, not even
using my normal speaking voice, but (becomes Puss) using something a bit
deeper, more breathy, more kinda suaver

“It was a very interesting choice at that
particular time and it helped to establish the limits and the parameters of the
character in terms of personality.

“It’s almost like a lion trapped in the body
of a little kitty cat and that gave him something completely different.

“I remember after that decision the
scriptwriters and everyone who was attached to the movie start delivering the
character in a totally different way. I remember the character as it was written
in the first one and it was a recurring character, kind of little, and suddenly
they saw different possibilities and the character started growing in that
direction. And so what we have been trying to do is just to expand that kind of
personality. That we can still
open doors for him to go to places that we don’t expect.

Puss In Boots is available on DVD/Blu-ray from 26th March 2012


David Watson

 
David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com