Spanish actor Antonio Banderas
. Picture: Itumeleng English
Venturing into unknown territory and taking risks seems to be what Spanish actor Antonio Banderas has a knack for. His career took off in Hollywood after he landed an acting role, although he couldn’t utter a word of English at the age of 31.

The 57-year-old says that after the success of that movie in spite of the language barrier, he was called back for other movies.

Banderas became famous as one of the few Spanish migrants to make it in Hollywood, but he says he arrived at the right time.

“I got into the United States at a very particular moment in the history of that country; things were already changing.

“It was a very weird time because I didn’t even speak English at all. I did my first movie totally blind, and had an interpreter to talk to the director, and I couldn’t understand my fellow actors,” recalls Banderas, who arrived for the first time in Africa last week.

“For many years, there was a big wave of the Spanish community moving from South America to the United States as immigrants for many different reasons, and that community worked hard for many years to take their kids to university. So those kids, coming out, they were architects, doctors and they had the skills and worked very hard.”

He points out that there is a different outlook in Hollywood towards the Spanish community.

Banderas decided two decades ago to take another leap of faith, and ventured into the fashion world by introducing a perfume range to the African market, where he says he is excited to operate in.

“I do wear many hats. To be honest, acting is my career. All of these things came by in the mid-70s while doing theatre in Mali with a group of friends. We all had to decide what we wanted to do with our lives, so I decided to become a professional actor, and my friends stayed in Mali and became business people.

"I went to Hollywood, and after sometime when I returned home, they asked me why I didn't diversify in what I’m doing. They said ‘you should be getting business out of it’. I started learning that in that path, I can be creative in doing business,” he says.

Banderas has been in the perfume space for 21 years now, and tapping into the African market, for him, is tapping into who he is - "a middle-class person".

“That is actually my segment. Not only because that is the position we are targeting in the market, but because that is what I am."

What he has realised after his years in the industry is that “everything is the same".

"You can be an artist, a car mechanic, a piano player; in doing that, everything is the same. We all want to send messages. We all try to communicate things in many different ways which describe our relationship with life.”

The Sunday Independent