Antonio Banderas — thespian and cape enthusiast — is getting some of the best reviews of his career, all thanks to his subtle, moving, and shockingly ham-free work in Pain & Glory, a new drama that reunites him with legendary Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, who gave him his start back in the 1980s. And while he’s been giving incredible interviews as well, showing off a melancholic and philosophical side he rarely gets to exhibit, it was only a matter of time before someone — namely a GQ journalist — asked him about arguably his most famous work in the digital age: that gif of him leaning back at a computer in ecstasy, and pressing his fingers to his mouth as though he was about to give a chef’s kiss.
I interviewed Antonio Banderas! He talked about the new Almodóvar movie, death, Catholicism, and why Puss in Boots is so important to him. Yes I did ask about this GIF. https://t.co/JiZrHvGLsW pic.twitter.com/NAu5SLI2es
— Gabriella Paiella (@GMPaiella) October 1, 2019
It’s a stray bit from the otherwise forgotten 1995 thriller Assassins, in which he battled Sylvester Stallone and Julianne Moore. The internet has a funny habit of extracting random moments from movies, television, what-have-you, stripping them of context and making them ubiquitous; just ask the social media sharks who didn’t realize one of their favorite gifs was of Robert Redford, lifted from the classic 1972 outdoors drama Jeremiah Johnson.
In any case, Banderas — whose Twitter account is pretty formal, just sticking to movie releases and public appearances — knows he’s “internet famous,” on top of being regular famous. While speaking with GQ’s Gabriella Paiella, the subject of the Assassins gif was broached. He said he’s aware hundreds, thousands, maybe millions share it daily, and, no, he doesn’t seem to totally get it.
“I don’t totally understand this new generation and those memes things and those stuff,” Banderas said. “It’s fun, I guess.” But he played along, putting on his glasses to watch the gif with Paiella, even acting out the bit for her, which must have been mind-bending.
Assassins was one of six American films he made that year, back when he was first becoming a household name on this side of the Atlantic. (The others, for the record, were Miami Rhapsody, Desperado, Never Talk to Strangers, Two Much, and a segment of the anthology film Four Rooms.) Banderas spoke briefly about his experiences, saying it was also around the time he first got together with Melanie Griffith, whom he married the following year.
The revelation caused much using of the gif in question, including by Banderas himself.
Pain & Gain offers a side of Banderas few Americans have seen — one devoid of bombastic flourishes and breathy line readings and wide-eyed facial tics. It’s the kind of “adult” performance he’s never been given the chance to make, and it’ll probably shock those who mostly know him from his gif (or from Puss in Boots), and perhaps aren’t even sure it’s Antonio Banderas.