To hear him tell it, Antonio Banderas is one unlucky hombre. Never mind that the star of The Mambo Kings and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown has reinvented the Latin Lover with such verve and sensitivity; Tom Hanks, accepting a Golden Globe Award for Philadelphia, was moved to quip of his onscreen mate, “To be in love with Antonio Banderas. I’m the envy of men and women all over the world.” That may be, but Banderas still thinks he is cursed, afflicted. “In Spain,” explains the Malaga native, who has starred in some two dozen Spanish movies, “we have a saying that translates to ‘The uglier the man the better’ ” Meaning, he says, that a guy who’s too handsome is less than macho.
Maybe, however, even with his bronze skin, soulful brown eyes and sensual mouth, Banderas might escape the fate of the fabulous looking. After all, the 33-year-old actor—who shares homes in Madrid and Manhattan with his wife of eight years, actress Ana Leza, and who makes a mean paella—has managed to avoid vanity. “I wake up every morning,” he laughs, “look in the mirror and ask, Am I a sex symbol?’ Then I go back to bed again. It’s stupid to think that way.” Now appearing in The House of the Spirits, come November he’ll be scorching screens opposite Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire. Still the curse of the comely persists. “Nobody is going to offer me The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” Banderas points out, “and that’s a part I’d love to play.”