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Antonio Banderas Picks Up His Sword as Puss In Boots in Shrek 2

BY CHRIS PRYOR

A native of Málaga, Spain, Antonio Banderas started acting in films like Laberinto Del Amore and Atame! (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!) with director Pedro Almodóvar during the 1980s. Since making his U.S. debut in Madonna’s Truth or Dare, Banderas has played a swordsman, a stalker and a spy. This summer, however, you can catch the actor — or at least his voice — poking fun at himself as part of the all-star cast of Shrek 2.

In the highly anticipated Shrek sequel, the newlywed ogres Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and their wisecracking donkey (Eddie Murphy) take a road trip back to Fiona’s hometown in the kingdom of Far, Far Away. There, they’ll meet her parents, played by Julie Andrews and John Cleese. As the story holds, the King has other marital plans for his daughter and decides to take matters into his own hands by consigning the ogre-slaying talents of the fabled calico caballero known throughout the kingdom as Puss In Boots.

Enter Banderas. "When I joined the cast of Shrek 2, they said to me that my character was French — kind of like a D’Artagnan from The Three Musketeers. But obviously, when I jumped in there with my accent, he became Zorro," Banderas says with a laugh.

Hairball jokes aside, it’s clear that the actor had a field day lampooning the smoldering persona he’s perfected onscreen over the years. While Shrek is animated, "El Gato con Botas" eventually began to lift mannerisms from the actor providing his voice.

"Sometimes they put cameras in the recording booth … recording the way you would be performing the lines," Banderas explains. "I suppose that they went to some of my epic movies like Zorro, Desperado, The 13th Warrior, movies like that. Because sometimes I recognized [certain] moves or a way of looking (on the animated cat) and I’d say ‘Oh my God, that’s mine!’ The opportunity to spoof yourself isn’t [placed] in your hands everyday — it’s kind of fun. This is my first animated movie."

In light of the sexier roles Banderas has portrayed in the past, it might appear as though he’s embarking on a new career trajectory with more family-oriented fair, but, according to the actor, that’s not the case at all.

"I have to say that I am a fan of Shrek. When I [first] saw the movie, the character that made me laugh the most was Donkey. My daughter, who is 7, may have seen the first movie two times — I saw it like six," Banderas says with a laugh. "I just loved it. I thought [the message] was beautiful. It’s a coincidence that I am in Spy Kids and now Shrek 2 — movies that are oriented in some ways for kids."

Yet the seasoned actor’s foray into the world of animation took a little getting used to. "What surprised me the most was that we were recording our parts in solitude," Banderas recalls. "We didn’t have other actors working with us. Even when we sang ‘La Vida Loca,’ I sang my part totally independently of Eddie Murphy.

"It was nice to see it all [come] together onscreen," Banderas continues. "Not just the animation, which I think is fabulous, but just the interaction among all the actors — sometimes even stepping on the lines of each other is something that we didn’t do while we were recording it. The way that the film was edited was masterful."

Actors in the past have mentioned what a challenge voicing animated films can be on the artist, but that didn’t stop Banderas, who cut his Puss In Boots lines on his days off while acting in the stage production "Nine" in New York City. When asked if he’d ever do another animated film, Banderas doesn’t miss a beat.

"Yes, absolutely, with this team. Jeffrey Katzenberg was kind of in competition mode with himself. He wanted to surpass the first film — go further with the technology, the content of the movie and the insertion of different characters. If I weren’t in the second part, I would still speak beautifully about Shrek 2 because I am a fan [of it as well]."

Antonio expounds further: "Shrek can [possibly] become one of those characters that are a part of American pop culture. That is interesting. Shrek is a guy who can be common like Mickey Mouse; those characters that are forever a part of you."

Shrek 2 releases in theaters May 19.