NEW YORK, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Antonio Banderas says his experience starring in the hit Broadway musical "Nine" was such a wonderful one he is already planning his return to the Great White Way.
Although "Nine" was Banderas's Broadway debut, the actor is no stranger to theater. In fact, that is where he began his career in 1974, traipsing the boards in his native Spain until he won his first film role in 1981. He earned a Tony Award earlier this year for his portrayal of a philandering Italian filmmaker suffering from writer's block.
Talking to journalists in New York recently, the 43-year-old star of "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" and "Evita" revealed that he stayed away from theater in America because he was afraid of performing "in a language that is not my mother language."
"Especially in a place like Broadway where the people are very picky," he noted. "We have audiences that are very, very trained in musical theater. I was afraid of that. So, for 14 years, I stopped doing theater, which is something that I did since the beginning of my career...
"But nobody knew that about me here in the States," he continued. "Now that I've done it, yes, the house is open for business and I have some proposals now. I have Cy Coleman with a new musical based on Napolean that I would like to just revise and see if it is the right vehicle for me, and even plays that have nothing to do with musicals that I would like to do. But, I have to spread them in time and coordinate them with the movies that I would like to do as an actor, and also I would like to direct again."
Priding himself on the fact that he has never missed a performance in five months, Banderas said it was important to him to show he was truly dedicated to the award-winning msuical, not just an actor trying to prove his skill or a celebrity stuck in a stage production as a novelty to generate ticket sales.
"That would be my goal," said the actor. "To arrive to the fifth of October without missing any performance. For me, that is a statement I would like to make. I didn't come here to say, 'I can act and now I'm going.' I would like to go from A to Z and committing totally to what you're doing and after that I'm going to Spain and I'm going to spend some time with my family."
Banderas' recent stage success was sweetened by the fact that his wife, film actress Melanie Griffith, earned critical acclaim in another Broadway show, "Chicago."
"It felt like heaven," he remarked, adding that he and Griffith never planned to simultaneously star in Broadway musicals. "She was called to do 'Chicago' two or three years ago and she said, 'No,' at the time. So, when I came here, the producers of 'Chicago' very smartly tempted her again and she accepted. That happened, actually, when I opened already in 'Nine' and it was successful and received good reviews and awards and nominations and the audience seemed to like it, and so for this story to be completed, Melanie has to be also happy. I would have been very sad if one of us had made it and the other one, no, and then we would have gone around with a half-smile. But, that's not what happened."
That said, Banderas admitted that now "what I have in mind right now is rest."
"I'm extremely tired," he said. "On the 5th of October, we're going to go with a smile, with mission totally accomplished and happy to have had the opportunity of sharing with audiences our way of doing theater, our talent, whatever, every night for a period of time. And it's time now for us to say goodbye. I don't want to drag myself from the stage. There's a moment when you are doing a play like this and it's so demanding that everything happens so much... There is something kind of telling me, 'You have to go now,'" he said, explaining that he sometimes feels like he is the Bill Murray character in the 1993 film "Groundhog Day," forced to relive the same day over and over again.
"And you're like, 'I know this' and the lines don't make so much sense any more and so I think it is time for me to just realize that it is time to say goodbye and some people are going to come," he said of the musical based on Federico Fellini's ground-breaking film, "8 1/2." "John Stamos is going to do my character next and he's going to bring new fresh air to the play and Chita Rivera is going out, too, Jane Krakowski. That is the way things have to be."
After enjoying another great summer at the box office with "Spy Kids 3D: Game Over," Banderas can now be seen in Robert Rodriguez's latest film, "Once Upon a Time in America," the third installment in the "El Mariachi" saga.
For Banderas, this character holds a special place in his heart because he was the first leading character he played in America. But the actor went on to say that before he accepts any role, he considers, "Who is behind the character?"
"And who is behind the character is Robert Rodriguez and I have worked with him for six times already and I feel comfortable with him," Banderas said. "I feel connected to him, not just in the professional aspect, but also in the human aspect. I consider him my friend. And it was a pleasure just to go back to our family business with 'Spy Kids' and 'Desperado' and it has always been a pleasure... If he does a movie, hell, I'll be there."
Asked to describe the best and worst parts about making movies, the veteran of nearly 60 films replied: "The worst part is how physically demanding it is and I have to recognize actually that from 1994 (when he made 'Desperado') to now, you get a little older and the bones start hurting a little more when you have to jump out a window and things like that. That's the worst part and the best part is what I said before. It is just to find that you are working with friends, that there is not so much explanation that you have to do. You recognize each other. With Robert Rodriguez, I just look at him and I know what he wants. In fact, we have been practicing this even from the beginning in the first movie."
Banderas will continue performances in "Nine" until Oct. 5. "Once Upon a Time in America" was No. 1 at the box office when it opened last weekend.