When Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones teamed up to film 1998’s The Mask of Zorro, neither was yet a big name with U.S. audiences. Then Banderas swashbuckled, Zeta-Jones swooned, and the pair’s caliente chemistry turned them both into megastars. In the years since, each has been busy juggling work, kids and Hollywood marriages (Banderas, 45, to Melanie Griffith, 48; Zeta-Jones, 36, to Michael Douglas, 61). Together again in the new sequel, The Legend of Zorro, the costars talked with PEOPLE’s Alexis Chiu.
How have you changed since shooting the first Zorro nine years ago?
BANDERAS: I’m better now. [laughs]
ZETA-JONES: We all get better with age. We’ve matured; we’re like a fine wine. [To Banderas] You’re a great Spanish wine.
Do you remember your first meeting?
ZETA-JONES: I arrived in Mexico nervous as hell for my screen test. And you came in full of life, full of energy. And I’m like [sheepish voice], “Catherine Zeta-Jones, very nice to meet you.”
BANDERAS: I don’t remember her nervous. I just remember a smile from here to here. I remember thinking, “Gosh, she’s very beautiful.” And very funny too, which is an unusual thing to find.
ZETA-JONES: People ask me all the time: “Do you rehearse the chemistry?” I say we never even talked about it, ever.
Was it harder nine years later to get in shape for the role?
BANDERAS: [nodding vigorously] I’m 45 years old now. And there was more action in this movie. I’m very hard-headed and I wanted to do as much as I can.
ZETA-JONES: How many times did I say, “You’re nuts”? When Antonio said to me [mimics his voice], “Caterina, my back!” I said, “You can complain to me, but I have no sympathy, because you’re crazy.”
Both of you have a background in musical theater. Ever think about duetting?
ZETA-JONES: We used to sing a lot together. We harmonize pretty well. West Side Story. Cats.
Think your kids will go into the family business?
ZETA-JONES: We’re similar in our relationships. Both Michael and Melanie, they’re a small minority of people: children of successful actors who break through and become their own thing. So my kids have the three generations: Kirk, Michael, them. If they’re happy with that, I’ll completely support them.
And you, Antonio?
BANDERAS: Do whatever they want to do. Absolutely. The only thing I’d tell them is they must make sure they really love what this profession is all about. That starts in “action” and finishes in “cut.” And the rest is just bull. If they love that momentum, if they love going there, then they should do it.
That Zorro mask—Antonio, ever wear it at home?
BANDERAS: Oh no. Hey! [with a wink] I don’t want to talk about sex right now.
ZETA-JONES: Don’t go into his personal life!
So that’s a no?
ZETA-JONES: But I do—I wear it on a regular basis.
BANDERAS: [laughing] No, not the mask. But the whip…