His head shaved for his latest role, Antonio Banderas is nothing if not approachable, responding with disarming openness to every question as he appears in public to promote Genius: Picasso, a series he has just finished shooting for the National Geographic channel which will be released on April 26. Banderas dons a grey wig to play the influential Málaga-born artist but the accent came naturally to him as a native to Málaga himself.
We have to keep our heads when it comes to finger-pointing, otherwise we’ll go mad
It is no secret that the actor adores the city and now he hopes to pay homage to it through his work. On local radio stations, TV channels and in regional newspapers, he will spend the next few days discussing Picasso, Málaga, and the local excitement the series has generated. But as he made his way down south, he also stopped to chat to EL PAÍS about the world he inhabits and the undercurrent of power-mongering and sexual abuse that has recently come to light in the studios of Tinseltown.
“We have to support these reports. It’s a tremendous abuse of power,” he says. “The desperation to find work means that many people with power think, ‘I can manipulate this person and do that.’ It’s dreadful, a horror movie.” But while his views on abuse are unequivocal, he believes the topic needs to be tackled with care. “It could lead to a lot of injustice,” he observes.
“In the years following Franco’s death, from 1976 to 1978, many school and university students went out to protest because we live in a country where you are innocent until it is proved otherwise,” he adds. “Now, years later, no one can ask me to point the finger at someone without having all the information. I just can’t do that. I can’t turn into Franco and say, this guy is guilty because this other guy says so,“ Banderas says, about Spain’s historical legacy. “It can’t be that simple because if it were, it would be easy to take revenge on someone by derailing their career. We have to keep our heads when it comes to finger-pointing, otherwise we’ll go mad.”
It’s dreadful, a horror movie
The actor has watched as colleagues have spoken out about their experience with abuse, such as his close friend Salma Hayek. “Abuse is abuse,” he says categorically. “And many of the cases disclosed are massive abuses of power which shouldn’t just be punished by the profession itself, as in ‘I don’t want to work with this person anymore’, but also by the law. Many cases should be tried in a US courtroom.”
In 2017, Salma Hayek published an article in The New York Times in which she accused Harvey Weinstein of being a monster during the shooting of Frida. Banderas didn’t hesitate to show his support for the actress on social media. “I’ve worked with Harvey on a number of occasions,” he says. “I didn’t like him for other reasons, professional reasons that I won’t go into, but I had no idea that this was happening.” Banderas goes on to say, “When I talked to Salma, I asked her why she hadn’t told us and she said very nobly that she didn’t want to get us mixed up in it. She said, ‘I didn’t tell Edward Norton [her partner at the time], I didn’t tell you and I didn’t tell my friends because he is a very powerful man and if I tell you and you do something about it, he could take it out on you and end your career and I didn’t want to put you in the same situation I was in.”
Banderas does, however, believe that had she told him and other people in the industry at the time, something could have been done. “We didn’t know what was going on. We would have done something, particularly if enough of us had known, because a group has more clout. What happened is sad.” According to the actor, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements should help prevent more cases of abuse in Hollywood. “The consequence will be to put us on the alert, I hope,” he says. “It will help us think twice, reflect and say, wait a moment, this is going too far.”
English version by Heather Galloway.