Actor Antonio Banderas chats about his role in 'Shrek Forever After' and Spain's chances of winning the World Cup!

Q: Hi Antonio. Would it be correct to say in 'Shrek Forever After' you put a lot of weight into your character, Puss in Boots?
A:
(Laughs). Yes, only me and Robert De Niro have put on so much weight for a role in the history of motion pictures.

Q: Were you upset Puss in Boots has let himself go physically. He is really fat... and wears a pink ribbon.
A:
I was not upset about the weight of the character. I was upset about the pink ribbon (laughs).

Q: What do you love most about Puss?
A:
The fact he is mischievous. I love the contrast in size between him and Shrek. Puss is so little. When we were first discussing what kind of character Puss should be, we wondered about his voice. Should it be a quiet voice to match his small body? We decided no, no, no. Let's go in the opposite direction. We gave him a very secure voice. In that body, it is very funny. It's like he has never looked in the mirror at himself. It creates comedy. In the three 'Shrek' movies, Puss has done some amazing things. He's a womanizer. He has all of these relationships with cats. He'll say 'I love you... and I love you and you and you' to the lady cats.

Q: In terms of your career, what does Puss mean to you?
A:
In terms of my career, a lot. When I came to America I couldn't speak the language, but when they called me to be in 'Shrek', they only wanted my voice which amazed me. I didn't know the animation process. I didn't know how they made it. It was difficult. For it to work, you have to get into the character. Before they asked me, I was a big fan of the first 'Shrek'. I saw it and I loved it. It is the pick of all animated movies. 'Shrek' means a lot to me. It represents to me the magnificent part of Hollywood and the search for perfection. It is the work of a large team of animators, creative people, screenwriters, producers and they are all looking for excellence. To be part of that is very beautiful. I'm sure in 20 years to come people will look back and say "The Shrek movies were very well done". They are a series of four movies that took animation to a very interesting place and looked at pop culture.

Q: It is ironic that 'Shrek' pokes fun at popular culture, but in fact, 'Shrek' now holds an important place in pop culture.
A:
Yes indeed. We have become part of pop culture ourselves. I was looking out the window of my house in New York when the Thanksgiving parade was on and there he was, Shrek, a big balloon floating past and behind him was Mickey Mouse. So, there you go. He's a part of pop culture.

Q: You have played Puss for such a long time. What is your favourite memory and biggest challenge?
A:
The biggest challenge was to understand the animation process. When I did the first voice sessions for 'Shrek', I was doing 'Nine' on Broadway. The very first Puss voice session was the hairball scene. I spent 45 minutes doing strange sounds. That night I went to the theatre and I couldn't sing. I had no voice whatsoever (laughs). It's just fun. It is not hard work for me. When I go in to voice Puss, it is fun for me. The environment is a fun environment. When I get in the room and see the people on the other side of the glass laughing, I know we are doing something special. It has to be fun.

Q: What surprised you about the animation process?
A:
The process is quite interesting. I didn't expect that. I thought they did the animation, then they put your voice over the top, but that's not the case.

Q: Is it true you voice Puss in a number of different languages for the different world markets?
A:
Yes. I am the only one of the four characters who does voices in Spanish. I do a version for the Castilian market and I do a version for the Latin American market in Spanish and I do an Italian version. The Italian is the most challenging. They loop it. You have to lip-synch it so you can't miss the character's face movement. The Spanish Puss, he talks with a lisp.

Q: I hope they pay you more for all of that extra voice work!
A:
No (laughs). Actually, as soon as I finish this interview I will go and call Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Q: Is it true you are doing a spin-off Puss in Boots movie?
A:
Yes, we are already doing it. We have already had three sessions. It is slightly different to 'Shrek'. It's not so much about pop culture, although we go back to the time of spaghetti westerns and Sergio Leone and divided screens. It is much more of an epic than 'Shrek'. 'Shrek' is more supported by fairytales. We have some fairytales going on, but it is more of an epic.

Q: Is Salma Hayek voicing a character in the Puss spin-off movie?
A: Yes. She voices a character Kitty.

Q: What's it like working with Salma again?
A:
Well, just like 'Shrek', you don't work with the other actors. They bring in actors one at a time to provide the voices. This particular movie I asked to work with Salma. I think Salma has a great capacity for comedy. I loved working with her in 'Desperado'. I had a lot of interaction. What I don't want to lose is the irreverent side of Puss in Boots and my relationship with Salma's character is love-hate. They hate each other so much they'll always end up together. That relationship can produce a great lot of comedy. I told the creative people we have to go in that direction in certain areas of the movie and bring Salma in when I am in there and improvise. If you improvise that freshness it works, we can't do it if we are in there by ourselves.

Q: In the Puss spin-off movie, will Puss change at all from how we have seen him in the 'Shrek' films?
A:
No. I don't want him to lose his mischievousness and edginess. We have to have that kind of edgy side of the character because he appeals very much to a lot of people.

Q: What is your best memory from doing the 'Shrek' films over the years?
A:
Opening in Cannes. You are in a festival that is filled with intellectual films from the Czech Republic, Korea, Russia and all over the world that are introspective of the human soul, but there was 'Shrek'. The whole entire theatre at Cannes was filled with laughter. We had 12 minutes of applause. There were interruptions everywhere with people laughing and having fun.

Q: You have a photography exhibit that just opened in New York. How important was that for you?
A:
Very important. It's fantastic. Thankfully it has been very well received. I have been taking photos for a very long time, but never showed them publicly. Then PUIG, the company I am working with for 14 years with my perfumes, saw some of my photos and said "We will pay you to get into a photo studio". It is something I never thought I'd do. At first I wasn't sure about it, but then I had ideas and they didn't censor me. I said "OK, I have this idea. I want to do this and this". They did it for me. There are 23 pictures. Very iconic of Spanish pop culture. Bullfighting, myths, Carmen, Don Giovanni, Goya. It is a very strong, independent, sometimes aggressive point of view of history. We are selling the photos, and the money is going to charities like Broadway Cares.

Q: Do you take photos of Melanie?
A:
Yes, I do take photos of her, but none of those pictures have come out (laughs).

Q: You are going to work with Pedro Almodovar again ('The Skin I Live In'). It has been 21 years since you worked with him, right?
A:
Yeah. It's a very big issue for me. It is a long time.

Q: Are you at peace with Pedro? Have you forgiven him for taking you through hell?
A:
I don't care, because the hell is a very creative one. I prefer to go to that painful place, the unsafe place where creation is. I am absolutely open to receive anything from him. Many things happened to both of us over the 21 years, but I will be working with a very polished, one of the best directors in the world, one of the best creators and filmmakers. He is also my friend. But, the friend will be outside. When I go in there, because of the nature of the story, he will pull from us big time. The movie, I can't say anything about. Pedro called me and said "Don't say anything about it. Put it all on me. Tell people who ask that I tyrannise you and you are my slaves and I have a whip and have forbidden you to say anything". The movie is going to bother people. I will go into the film with my heart and mind open and ready to do anything.

Q: You have a big birthday coming up in August - your 50th. What are your plans for the big day?
A:
I will be shooting. I start on the 9th, which is my wife's birthday. Then on the 10th it is mine. It will be my second day shooting.

Q: Does turning 50 bother you?
A:
No. I don't care. I make a lot of jokes about turning 50. That's because I really don't care.

Q: So you won't even have a party?
A:
I really don't like parties. We might have some cake on the set. Pedro will probably bring some cake to the set. At the end of the day we'll have some champagne.

Q: Will Spain win the World Cup?
A:
Yes. We will win (Laughs).

'Shrek Forever After' opens in Irish cinemas on 2 July.