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Antonio Banderas balanced 'Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,' 'Indiana Jones 5,' and Sondheim
As energetic as ever, Antonio Banderas reveals the many gigs he balanced voicing his Puss in Boots character once more.
Never let it be said that actor Antonio Banderas isn't up for multi-tasking when it comes to his career. With the release of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish this week, the actor gets to return to the character that first voiced way back in Shrek 2. The character is a suave swashbuckler, romance, and wily thief — a tabby of all trades, if you will — which the actor ended up mirroring in his own life during the long production cycle of making this latest installment.
Banderas tells SYFY WIRE that at one point he was balancing recording sessions for The Last Wish in Spain while also performing a leading role in the Malaga production of Stephen Sondheim's Company, and he was also playing Renaldo in James Mangold's upcoming Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny sequel. Committed to the theater performance which mostly locked him to daily performances in Spain, Banderas says, "I only left a little bit here and there to do the Indiana Jones thing. I had to go to Sicily and then to London, just to do specifically Indiana and then go back to the stage."
Playing Puss added another level of complication because the feline's vocal register did not align well with Sondheim's tricky melodies and lyrics. "Puss' got a very specific voice, so I have to force my vocal cords a little bit," he explains. "And so going back to the theater that night after doing a session of two or three hours with Puss is dangerous because I have to sing as I was doing a musical. And it's difficult because it's a Sondheim musical. So suddenly, it can be very, tricky just to sing "Being Alive" after being with Puss the whole afternoon."
Fortunately, Banderas says when it was time to record Puss' signature song for the film's rousing opening number, "Fearless Hero," he had a short window of a singing reprieve. "I did it when I finished," he says with relief. "I was finished already with Company in Malaga. But now, I'm doing it in Madrid!"
The Last Wish's co-director Joel Crawford says you'd never know Banderas was being pulled in so many directions because his exuberant delivery of "Fearless Hero" helped them land one of the biggest sequences of the movie. The song underscores Puss' house party in the Governor's mansion, then a battle with a fairy tale scale organic giant he has to battle to the death. A musical that then turns into an epic action sequence that then triggers the emotional arc of the film, Crawford says it almost broke their whole team trying to get it just right.
"It was all about how do we introduce Puss in Boots after so many years?" Crawford says of the film's opening sequence. "There are people who are going to cheer that he's back. But there's also an audience that maybe has never seen him." They decided on reintroducing Puss as a Robin Hood type; equal parts hero and rock star. And so we created this opening that has this purposeful momentum that you're just thrown into it. Puss in Boots is singing a song about himself — a fearless hero — for all the poor villagers at the Governor's mansion, passing out the Governor's gold to them and then it escalates to the ridiculousness of fighting a giant. The challenge was making it feel like one ride and making it musical. And thankfully, we had Heitor Pereira, our very talented composer, who came in with this very catchy song, right away. But working with the animators to sync up all the action to the music, and even the sound effects, everything feels choreographed purposefully so that as an audience you're like, "This is fun!" while tapping your foot to the beat. You should feel the ease and there's a fearlessness to even fighting the giant until Puss gets smashed by the bell at the end," he laughs.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is in theaters now.
Stream the first Puss in Boots on Peacock.