Johannesburg - Spanish heart-throb Antonio Banderas is proving that age is just a number.
The 57-year-old actor, singer and director was in South Africa this week to launch his fragrance range and spend time with the children at Johannesburg-based charity Nkosi’s Haven, for which he has raised more than R1 million.
In an interview at the Saxon Hotel in Sandhurst, Johannesburg, this week, Banderas counts his blessings.
The heart attack he suffered in March has not caused lasting damage, even though he had to have three stents inserted into his arteries. At his age, he says, he has the freedom to select which roles he would like to portray – unlike actresses his age.
Older actresses struggle to land meaningful roles, he says. Discrimination against older women is not only a problem in Hollywood, but in society in general.
“But Hollywood is very cruel when it comes to older women because, when you are an older woman, they no longer take you seriously and it becomes hard for you to get acting jobs,” he says.
And Banderas should know.
Until two years ago, he was married to Oscar-winning actress Melanie Griffith (60), who is seldom seen on the big screen these days. The year before his divorce, he began dating sexy blonde banker Nicole Kempel (37), with whom he was reportedly having an affair while married to Griffith.
Asked for his secret to graceful ageing, Banderas jokes: “Except that I had a heart attack this year. I still exercise a lot.”
The star of mega hit films including Desperado (1995) and The Mask of Zorro (1998) now wants to do more producing work.
“The space of television and movies has grown enormously. In the past 20 years, we have great television; authentic shows. Television has grown so much; people film their movies on gadgets these days.”
He has advice for aspiring actors.
“My message to young people is that they should do what they love and not do it for money. If you want to be a good actor, you must love the time between cut and action. Do not do something because you want to be famous, do it because you love it. The key word for everything is love.”
This week, Banderas visited Nkosi’s Haven to spend time with the children there, sharing his love for photography with them. The nongovernmental organisation provides a home and treatment for destitute, HIV-infected mothers and their children.
The founder of Nkosi’s Haven, Gail Johnson, said she was thankful for what the actor had done for the organisation.
“Antonio is a godsend,” she said.
Banderas took on the role of party photographer and spent the afternoon capturing portraits of the children and their mothers.
On Thursday night, Banderas attended a gala dinner and art auction at Marble restaurant in Rosebank, Johannesburg. The proceeds from the sale of some of the art were donated to Nkosi’s Haven.
Big local names who attended the event include businesswomen Khanyi Dhlomo and Rachel Tladi, and Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa.
Banderas, on his first visit to the country, said it had been fun. He has been supporting charities on the continent for the past 21 years.
“Many people weren’t even aware that I was involved in Nkosi’s Haven because I prefer not to
make a noise about it, but my work must speak for itself,” he says.
Banderas says he adopted Nkosi’s Haven because it is a symbol of a devastating disease that is affecting the continent.
Speaking about his fragrance range, The Secret Temptation, he says he wouldn’t like to take the credit for it because the cologne was produced by the Bush family in Barcelona, Spain.
“They invited me to go into the perfume business with them. They forced me into it and I fell for it. I have adopted that business as my baby,” he says.
A friend once told him he had to learn to be creative and to be good at business as well, he says.