A Life Driven by Passion for the Arts and Humanity
José Antonio Domínguez Banderas was born in Benalmádena, Málaga, Andalucía, Spain, on August 10, 1960 during the reign of Francisco Franco, to Ana Banderas Gallego, a school teacher, and José Domínguez, a police officer in the Guardia Civil. As a child, he wanted to become a professional soccer player until a broken foot at the age of fourteen shattered his dreams. He then showed a strong interest in the performing arts and created a new dream to follow. He began his acting career with a series of films by director Pedro Almodóvar and then appeared in high-profile Hollywood movies, especially in the 1990s, including Assassins, Evita, Interview with the Vampire, Philadelphia, Take the Lead, Desperado, The Mask of Zorro and Spy Kids. Banderas also portrayed the voice of “Puss in Boots” in the Shrek sequels and in Puss in Boots.
His impressive body of work, humanitarian efforts and sterling professional reputation made him the perfect recipient of Spain’s prestigious 2015 Goya de Honor award for lifetime achievement in the arts. The Goya Awards, known as Spain’s Oscars, was established in 1987 by the Spanish Academy of Cinematic Art and Science. The award itself is a bronze bust of Francisco de Goya created by the sculptor José Luis Fernández.
Upon receiving this award, Banderas mused that the honor represented a
reflection of the past and presented an opportunity for a new beginning. His
perspective on his life and career is particularly instructive for students of the arts. Here in its entirety is Banderas’ acceptance speech to the assembled
members of the Spanish Academy:
Just two or three years ago I was attending a Charity Gala in L.A. I was waiting to make my little speech there at my table. Taylor Swift was performing on the stage. She was doing great. When she finished her performance she passed by my side on her way off the stage.
When she saw me, she said my name with noticeable emotion. Automatically I thought, “Wow, Taylor Swift knows me!” A very white smile, very long legs…you know. But then she said, “My grandmother loves your movies!”
“Okay. Give a hug to your grandmother for me.” I am saying this to balance the big volume of compliments that I've been receiving since I was honored with this award, all of them referring to my youth.
Everything I have is because of my profession, which I’d rather call a vocation. Even more important, what I have, what I am, I owe to my profession. Seeing life as an adventure or maybe like a game, I've always liked the expression to play to define my work as an actor, director, or producer. This expression should be useful to reveal the real nature of who I am. Pablo Picasso, an illustrious man, used to say that he came so far, but he was still a child. That’s what I am, a child...a child from Málaga. If I could from that chair look at this other self called
Antonio Banderas with the award in his hands, I’d have to recognize that the one on stage isn't just me alone. He also belongs to many others who have added fragments of their lives, pieces of a puzzle of different colors and shapes to me. He belongs to all those eyes that saw and showed me the way, to all those mouths that spoke to me so wisely, to all those souls that accompanied me all the way to where I am now, all the way to this same stage. All of them are myself, and in some way, I am all of them as well.
If I look back, I see myself as old. However, if I look forward, I feel really young. There’s a reflection in the nature of this award that I’m receiving today that it’s not for a particular job but for a lifetime achievement. The reflection has two directions: one to the past and the other one toward the
From the first reflection a lot of big names come to mind. I am talking about celebrities in the movie industry, and the names of people who have spent
their lives in the movie industry. They are the names of people with whom I have had the honor, the privilege and the luck to share moments on the big screen with and also on that set we call life. People on one side and the other of the Atlantic, people who have left a mark on those like me with the big opportunity to be around them at some time of our lives. Some of those names are known, recognized, admired and celebrated. But also, some of those who have been part of my life at some moments are unknown to the audience. These people
will never be nominated. No one will ever ask them for an autograph. They don’t walk the red carpet and aren't photographed. Nonetheless, they’re part of the big family that the movie industry is. I’m talking about carpenters, painters, electricians, drivers, specialists, co-workers, members of my family and friends with whom I spent time. I could keep talking about them for many more hours. There are many stories, so many remembrances of those whose lives are touched by the film industry.
When I look at the past, I feel the need to remember and pay tribute to two people. These two persons that I saw became smaller and smaller from
the window of a train in Costa del Sol at 6 pm on August 3, 1980. They were my parents, frightened by the idea that their son was the victim of an attack
of madness. They were saying goodbye with the hope that sanity would return to the head of their child - the child that I was then, and I still am now. But sanity lost the battle. It wasn't the head but the heart that was guiding me. One mission and one determination were traveling with me on that train.
The mission: To become what I admired, one of those magical beings who challenged time and space, those who have made me travel in an extraordinary,
artistic stint to distant places, even the remotest places in my soul. I’m talking about actors.
The determination: I would never, ever, come back to my Málaga empty handed. Now, with this Goya in my hands, a lot of people might think that my goal was accomplished, and indeed, it was but just partially. The adventure continues. The road has become more complicated and therefore more thrilling especially now in times of crisis. Truthfully, this profession has always lived in crisis. Sometimes
I’ve wondered if the comfort and the tranquility of stability would let me enter into the complicated intricacies of life inside the arts. No. Crisis is our natural state. It has to be. We must assume and embrace the insecurity of our profession. Chaos is the best ally of any artist. We must enjoy having our hands dirty in the mud we are shaping and with the uncertainty of success or failure breathing down our
necks. With this we have to live.
Today, with the figure of Don Francisco de Goya in my hands, I understand that our artists, our intellectuals and our culture are the best way to know what we are and how we got here. Also, looking at some of the scenery – just some of it – you see through that shining window that we all have in our houses and realize that mediocrity has become the big business of our times. We must look again with our eyes wide open and try to unravel the warning behind Goya and Picasso’s work. We must be impressed with the ability of Falla, Tárrega, Albéniz
and Granados, composers who created scores that honor the glory of Spain; with Cervantes, Unamuno, Valle-Inclán, Lorca, Machado, tattooing on paper
the misery and greatness of our people. Expressed as well, of course, by Buñuel, Saura, Berlanga, Erice and my very loved and admired Pedro Almodovar. And there are so many others to praise.
I don’t know if this award is timely or even if I deserve it. However, I believe that I've survived with dignity and constancy between forests of subjectivities, jams of success, lonely moors of failure and the gaslights. What I do know about this award is that it makes me feel the impulse and the rush to get rid of those things that used to be useful, but right now I do not want to keep. I know this award
is like a starting gun in a race and sets the time to make sure not to let what is really important stay in the inkwell. I have to give myself body and soul to find those roads I still need to walk down and that - I hope you forgive me for express it this way - I know, I wish, I believe they are the definitive ones. There will be those in which you recognize me more because I've now realized something that was hiding in my past and maybe not completely identified. Now I can see clearly that I chose this path and decided to get on that train because intrinsically
I knew that culture and arts were the best ways to understand the world in which I was living.
It doesn't matter that much how far I've come because of my career as an actor or the gratitude I feel for Hollywood. It is mostly, by the way, especially because of how well they treated me, how well they have considered me or the respect I feel for my Hispanic brothers and sisters.
You have to believe me when I tell you that every single time I finished a scene, a sequence, or a film, my mind was in Spain, not in Arizona, not in Cleveland, not in Ohio. No, no, no. For me, the important thing was to know how this work would be received in my country, being more specific, in Málaga, and being even more specific, in my neighborhood.
I’ll finish now making a direct reference to the future. I am not talking about my future, but the future of our movie industry. Here, tonight, we have concentrated on an important number of young people who, besides having great talent, have been able to quickly develop a sense of commitment and responsibility to the public. These young people are claiming a critical spirit that helps them to be better every day: a clear understanding of the parameters of the Spanish movie industry that get them closer to the reality of our people. Above all I claim for
them, for those new generations of actors, directors and professionals of this industry, the love and support that make them feel and know that their effort
and sacrifice is not in vain. It’s worth the effort to represent our cinematography inside and outside our frontiers.
I think that every award should be dedicated, and I’m dedicating this to that person that maybe has suffered the most because of my passion for the film
industry, my long absences and my professional commitments. That person is the one I've missed the best scenes and the best sequences with, and yet she has been my best production. I dedicate this award to you, asking forgiveness, Estela del Carmen, my daughter. And now I’m going to go because the second part
of the game of my life has just started. Thank you very much! •