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THE MASK OF ZORRO

ANTONIO BANDERAS (Alejandro Murieta/Zorro) is one of the leading international actors of his generation. The Mask of Zorro marks the young actor's 34th film in 15 years.

Banderas was attracted to the film because it was a chance to play the only real Spanish hero Hollywood has ever created. "I knew the character because the Disney television series starring Guy Williams aired during the 1960s in Spain," he says. "I loved watching the show when I was a kid and pretending I was Zorro. When the chance came to play the role, I didn't hesitate to say yes."

Born in Malaga, Spain, in 1960, Banderas was drawn to acting after suffering a broken foot at the age of 14, which shattered his dream of becoming a professional soccer player. He enrolled at the School of Dramatic Art in his hometown and, upon graduation, began his acting career working in a small theater company based there. He moved to Madrid in 1981 and became an ensemble member of the prestigious National Theater of Spain, where he remained through 1986.

In 1982, Banderas was cast by eccentric writer/director Pedro Almodovar in Labyrinth of Passion. It was the first of five films Banderas would do with Almodovar, the others being Matador, Law of Desire, Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! During this time, Banderas also acted in more conventional Spanish dramas, including The Stilts, The Pleasure Of Killing and Baton Rouge. The international success of Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! brought Banderas to the attention of American audiences. He made his film debut here in 1992, as a young Cuban musician in The Mambo Kings. At the time he was cast in the movie, Banderas spoke no English and had to learn all of his dialogue phonetically. The Mambo Kings provided Banderas with a springboard to significant supporting roles in four major productions in two years: Philadelphia, House of the Spirits, Interview With The Vampire and Miami Rhapsody. His first starring role in an American film came in 1995 with Desperado, which he followed up with Never Talk to Strangers, Assassins, Four Rooms and Two Much.

Banderas then took the film world by surprise when he was cast opposite Madonna in Alan Parker's big-screen adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical Evita. Few suspected Banderas had such a beautiful singing voice. Banderas was so determined to win the role of Ché in the film that, when he met Parker at a Miami restaurant to discuss the role, he serenaded the director (and stunned diners) with songs from the score.

Upon completing work on The Mask of Zorro in Mexico, Banderas headed north to Canada to work on his next feature, Eaters of the Dead, for Director John McTiernan.

Banderas is making his debut as a director with Crazy in Alabama for TriStar Pictures, starring his wife, Melanie Griffith. He is also developing several projects under his own production company banner, Green Moon, in which he is partnered with Griffith. The couple has optioned the rights to Mary Dorias Russell's best-selling novel "The Sparrow," which they are developing with Addis-Wechsler and Associates. Also in development at Green Moon are the projects Paganini, Man Facing Southeast and Train To Mars.

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