Just like a certain feline swashbuckler, Antonio Banderas isn’t afraid to get right to the rapier point: he wants “Puss ‘N’ Boots” to give him a younger audience for a very mercenary reason:
So “Because I'm too old," he insists. "The ones that discovered me a long time ago don't want to go to the movies anymore. So I need a new generation - or else I die!”
To that end, Banderas recruited one of his favorite on-screen co-stars, Salma Hayek (“Puss” is their fifth film together) to join him in bringing “Shrek’s” sword-toting cat into his first solo adventure by playing Kitty Softpaws, a lightfingered thief who just might turn out to be irresistible catnip to the hero. But Hayek had some concerns about that young audience – specifically her four-year-old daughter Valentina. The actress sweated about spoiling the reality of the animated film for her daughter by revealing her role in it.
“I was worried about that because it's like telling them that it's like the Santa thing, in a way, because she really thinks there's cats there,” says Hayek. “And I thought I had some time, but I took her to see one movie and in the previews I see Antonio’s cat and I go, 'Oh no – I have two seconds to break it to her.' And before I could say anything my character came onboard and she said 'Oh my gosh, Mom! That cat sounds just like you!' So I said, 'Well, actually, it IS me.' So I had to explain to her that it's not real. And I think she was like maybe a little…not upset, but she was confused for a couple of days. But now she loves it – she's so proud of me.”
Because of his longtime friendship with Hayek, Banderas says he asked to break form and invite her into the recording booth with him to add their personal chemistry into their characters’ banter.
“The technique is basically just to work individually, but in this particular case I asked the director to give us the opportunity just to work together,” explains Banderas. “So we did a session where actually I think some of our stuff that we did together made it to the movie. We did that session and it was great – we fight a little bit, we just did what we wanted to do. If we would have done that individually, it would have been very difficult for the other person just to mach whatever the other did.
Even in the recording booth, Banderas admits the swashbuckling spirit of Puss sometimes overtakes him. “I get really physical,” he chuckles. “Sometimes I go in and out of microphone and they have to just pull me back in there. It's just so amazing to me, still: I got to this country without even speaking the language. And the fact that they used my voice, is such a paradox. When I came to America I said, 'If there is something that I'm going to do it's going to be an animation movie.' And here I am. I had a lot of fun. I know that the thing is working when I see they are in the booth laughing. We just ruined a lot of the best takes because we laughed. It's embarrassing, almost, to say this, but it's easy. It's just fun.”
Hayek, too, got physical during a take – but not in character. “We were one day recording God knows what, sitting in the studio, and the wall came down on us!” she reports of the day one of the walls suddenly collapsed. “I'm not kidding – we are alive by a miracle. How it missed both of us, we still don't understand. But the studio actually broke. The wall landed on the studio. I moved right before – and I don't know why I moved – and then, boom! So that was very physical that day: I ran fast.”
"Puss 'N Boots" opens in theaters everywhere today.