Antonio Banderas: 'Idol' Picasso's dark side was painful to play

By Karen Butler  |  April 24, 2018 at 6:00 AM
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April 24 (UPI) -- Actor Antonio Banderas says filmmakers have been trying to get him to portray Pablo Picasso for decades, but he felt a two-hour movie couldn't do justice to the artist's complicated story.

"He is the character that I have most rejected in my life," Banderas told reporters in New York about his decision to finally take on the role in National Geographic Channel's Genius: Picasso, a 10-hour miniseries that debuts Tuesday.

The artist who co-founded the Cubist movement -- a father of four children with three women -- died in 1973 at the age of 91.

The notion of Banderas portraying the philandering, tempestuous painter has been floated for years, largely because the 57-year-old actor also hails from Picasso's hometown of Malaga, Spain.

When Genius writer-producer Kenneth Biller and executive producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer offered him the chance to tell the story in 10 parts, he was finally sold.

Five weeks after he completed filming, Banderas told UPI on Thursday he doesn't know if he will be able to move on from the historical figure.

"I hope that I can let him go," he said. "At some points, it was painful, I have to confess that. When you play a character, you cannot establish a morality, judgment. You have to be clean of that. We do something and the audience will decide where to put Picasso in their lives after what they have seen for 10 episodes. Because he was my idol, there were moments I just had to jump into the darkest side of him and that was painful for me."

He went on to describe the painter as strikingly independent, someone who worked at night to avoid distractions even when it was at the expense of his personal relationships.

"It's unbelievable how this guy detached from everything," Banderas said. "You take it or you leave it."

Despite his own success in well-known films such as Assassins, Evita, Interview with the Vampire, Philadelphia, Desperado, The Mask of Zorro, The Expendables 3 and Spy Kids, Banderas acknowledged that most Picasso paintings -- which may sell up to tens of millions of dollars -- are out of his price range.

"I had two Picassos. I lost one in my divorce," said the actor, who was married to actress Melanie Griffith from 1996 to 2015.

He does appreciate art, however, and said he owns paintings from friends and up-and-coming artists, as well as works by Julian Schnabel and Goya.

Co-starring Alex Rich, T.R. Knight, Poppy Delevigne and Samantha Colley, Genius: Picasso debuts Tuesday on the National Geographic Channel. Much of the series was filmed on location in Malaga.

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