Antonio Banderas says having a heart attack may have been the best thing that happened to him. The Pain and Glory star sat down with Vanity Fair and opened up about his humble beginnings, wild ride to fame and the second chance he’s had.


He recalls being 19 and broke: “I remember thinking, Okay, this is the last day of me as I was. When I come back here, I have to be another me—someone who comes not with empty hands, somebody who brings something.”


Banderas tells Vanity Fair that he’s been extremely lucky: “But, you know, the moments that were really decisive—the ones that actually set up my life—they were coincidental. Unbelievably coincidental. For example, one year after arriving in Madrid, I was surrendering. I was hungry. I didn’t have money. I remember that I used to go to a coffee shop that was under the National Theater. I got a friend there that was a waiter, and he gave me a little beer and a sandwich with ham and cheese every night. So, I was leaving to go back to Malaga the next day. I was leaning on the stairs and I saw the daughter of a very famous actress who at the time was director of the National Theater. And I stop at the door and I turn around and I went down there. I talked to her and I said, literally, “What do I have to do to work in the National Theater?” She just looked at me and laughed. And she said, “Do you have a number?” I didn’t have a number, but I have a number of a friend of mine called Matilda del Real. I will always remember her name. And I put it on the napkin and she took it and put it in her purse.”

Then, Pedro Almodovar came to see the play he was cast in, and his life changed forever. 


He shares other incredible moments: “Tom Hanks won the award for Philadelphia—the Oscar—and he dedicated it to me. And I introduced Bruce Springsteen. That night, I went to Elton John’s party. At the table were Elton John, Bruce Springsteen with his wife, and Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Rita. Christian Slater, I remember too. There were two Oscars on the table with the drinks, and Steven says to me, ‘You know a character called Zorro?’ And I said, “Yeah! I used to watch the TV show when I was a little kid.” He said, ;Would you like to do it? Come tomorrow at 10:00 and we’ll talk about it.’ It was because of Tom. His kindness. He has been always, always the gentleman.”

In all, he says he’s made an incredible 112 movies. 


Banderas adds that the heart attack he had two years ago refocused his energy: “It gives you a lot of clarity, because you say, ‘Oh, my God, this is it? It can go this fast?’ So, you realize, what is money in a bank? It’s nothing but an intellectual Machiavelli process. But a theater—now a theater you can touch. I can see people there. I can see things happen in there. And that is my dream. We are living in a time in which it seems that whatever is not recorded doesn’t exist. We are recording too much. It’s called selfies, but it’s narcissism. People all day long doing this! And theater, suddenly, has a very interesting and important truth: It’s just me and you, and when this performance finishes, the only thing that you can have is your memory. And that grows in you.”