Actor Antonio Banderas recounts the simple lessons he learned from 33 men who entered the void and came out the other side.
After a few dozen features in his native Spain, it was when hip Spanish director Pedro Almodovar cast a young Antonio Banderas in 1989’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! that the world started to take notice.
Fast-forward a few decades and the now 55-year-old has been associated not just with many famous movies but entire film movements (he’s the go-to guy for Tarantino contemporary Robert Rodriguez, for example).
He’s made franchises his own (El Mariachi/Desperado, Spy Kids), starred in the worst-rated movie of all time (2002’s Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever) and crossed genres effortlessly, from playing the mischievous, Pepe Le Pew-esque Puss In Boots from the Shrek universe to Almodovar’s continuing obsession with glossy sexual melodrama.
With the release of the film The 33 in late 2015, Banderas can add real-life figure to his resume, playing Mario Sepulveda, the story of the miners who spend months trapped deep beneath Chile’s Atacama desert back in 2010. With more than 2,000 feet of rock in their way, members of a rescue team work tirelessly for 69 days to save the seemingly doomed crew. Beneath the rubble, the miners begin an epic quest to survive.
As Banderas tells GQ in New York, meeting the men that endured such hardship changed his perception of what it means to be truly thankful for the simplest of things.
You spent time with the real Mario Sepulveda to prepare, how did that help you with the role?
One of the things they all said to us is that ‘we are not heroes’. That’s very important in the movie. What I learned from him – even though there wasn’t time in the movie itself for it – was that he was a survivor from the very early stages of his life. He had to learn how to survive on a tough path and that life gave him an opportunity to use all those skills in order to find some order and some discipline down there.
You agreed to the film before meeting Mario though, what convinced you to take it on?
How emotional he was just to see that he was going to have a more Hollywood ending than any Hollywood movie. Thinking, ‘there are many people right now all around the world feeling what I’m feeling’. Ultimately that’s what the movie is about.
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