Banderas was born to father, Jose, and mother, Ana, a school teacher, during the height of tyrannical Spanish leader Francisco Franco’s oppressive regime. Banderas has a brother Francisco Javier, eighteen months younger than him, nicknamed ‘Chico’.
As a youngster, Banderas dreamed of becoming a professional football player. At age 14, he broke his foot, which put an end to this dream. Instead, against his parents' wishes, he enrolled for classes at the School for Dramatic Art, in Malaga. There he discovered a love of acting, did lots of street theatre, later joined a small theatre troupe and toured Spain with them. His efforts paid off and in 1981 he was offered a place to perform with the National Theatre of Spain, in Madrid.
The following year, Banderas was to make his screen debut in 'Laberinto de Pasiones' ('Labyrinth of Passion') (1982), directed by Pedro Almodovar, who had noticed Banderas performing at the National Theatre. Almodovar was a radical young director who wanted Banderas to help him forge a new film industry. They would continue working with one another for a number of years.
Banderas made a whole slew of Spanish films from 1982 to 1985, before working again with Almodovar, this time on two movies back-to-back. The first was 'La Ley Del Deseo' ('“The Law of Desire') (1986), in which he played a gay man and made headlines with his first onscreen man-to-man kiss. The second, was 'Matador' (1986). Ever the hard worker, Banderas appeared in a range of films between 1986 and 1988, before teaming up once more with Almodovar, in his internationally acclaimed 'Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios' ('Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown') (1988).
Banderas was in demand and the Almodovar formula seemed unfailing. Two years later, they made 'Atame!' ('Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!') (1990), a warm, unorthidox romantic comedy about a mental patient who kidnaps a porn star, tying her up until she loves him. Banderas’s recognition rose considerably.
Successful in his home country, and with the experience of many films under his belt, Banderas was keen to break into the American market, realising that was where the money lay. He bravely pursued this dream, even although he could not speak any English. His charisma and smouldering Latino looks helped to get him noticed and it was Madonna who gave America their first big screen viewing of Banderas. He appeared as an unwitting object of her desire in 'Madonna: Truth or Dare' (1991).
However, his first bona fide American movie role was in 'The Mambo Kings' (1992), and still speaking no English, he was forced to learn his lines phonetically. To his credit, his performance as a struggling musician was critically praised.
His real breakthrough to the mainstream American audience came with 'Philadelphia' (1993). Banderas played the gay lover of a lawyer with AIDS (Tom Hanks), with a sensitivity that earned him much kudos. His star was shining brightly and the following year he won a role in 'Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles' (1994). He was now working with the likes of Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Banderas had truly made the grade in Hollywood.
The next year Banderas worked with director Robert Rodriguez on his segment of the rather poor 'Four Rooms' (1995). He played a strong role, in which his comic potential was explored, providing one of the few memorable performances of the film. Also made with Rodriguez was 'Desperado' (1995).
Melanie Griffith and Banderas met on the set of 'Two Much' (1996). After a whirlwind romance, and much to everyone’s surprise, they married in May 1996. Banderas then made his next big movie, 'Evita' (1996) opposite Madonna, in a singing, dancing role. In September 1997, Antonio and Melanie had a daughter, Stella Del Carmen. The following year, Banderas made 'The Mask of Zorro' (1998), with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins. It seemed he could do no wrong, both personally and career-wise.
Three years later, and Banderas had moved to the other side of the camera. He presented his directorial debut 'Crazy in Alabama' in 1999, a black comedy in which both he and his wife, Melanie Griffith, starred. He then made his executive producer debut on 'The White River Kid' (1999) with Bob Hoskins and Wes Bentley. In 1999, Banderas was given the European Film Academy award for European Achievement in World Cinema.
In 'Play It to the Bone' (2000) he was an aspiring boxer, opposite Woody Harrelson, and a Cuban tycoon, with Angelina Jolie, in 'Original Sin' (2001). Another Rodriguez–directed film followed, the wonderful family adventure/comedy, 'Spy Kids' (2001). Banderas played a kidnapped agent whose children have to find their inner strength to help rescue their parents. He charmed the audience, children and adults alike, and reprised this role in 'Spy Kids2: Island of Lost Dreams' (2002).
He then turned to some adult roles, in Brian DePalma’s 'Femme Fatale' (2002) and the ill-fated 'Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever' (2002). Busy Banderas fitted a third film into that year, this one a historic role in the dramatic biopic, 'Frida' (2002).
He was back with Rodriguez for 'Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over' (2003), then 'Once Upon a Time in Mexico' (2003). He received a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV movie for his part in 'And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself' (2003). He worked with Emma Thompson in 'Imagining Argentina' (2003), set in Buenos Aires, during the Peron era.
In 2003, Antonio branched out further and made his first Broadway appearance in 'Nine', a Tony award winning musical. In 2004, Banderas provided voice for 'Shrek 2' and worked on 'Far Far Away Idol' (2004). Then came the swashbuckling sequel, 'The Legend of Zorro' (2005), with Catherine-Zeta Jones and Anthony Hopkins once again.
In 2005, Banderas received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, firmly cementing his place as a modern acting legend.
Banderas has incredible talent and acting versatility and an impressive number of films behind him. The quintessential Latino heartthrob, as well as being a talented dramatic actor, is one of Hollywood's leading men.
With 'Take the Lead' released in 2006, 'Shrek 3' in 2007, and 'Puss in Boots' in 2008, we can rest easy in the knowledge that Banderas will not be relaxing, but will be gracing our screens for the foreseeable future. In fact, we may even see him back to his roots, as he has spoken of a desire to dabble once more in the world of theatre.
In 2009, he appeared in 'The Code' alongside Morgan Freeman and continued to lend his voice to the character Puss in Boots throughout 2010 in 'Shrek Forever After' and the TV short 'Scared Shrekless'.
Banderas returned to the world of spies in 2011 when he appeared in 'Spy Kids: All the Time in the World 4-D'. He also worked with the Spanish director Almodovar for the first time since 1990 in 2011 when he appeared in the horror thriller 'The Skin I Live In'.
The actor portrayed a calculated revenge-seeking plastic surgeon following the rape of his daughter in a performance deemed one of his strongest by the Associated Press.
In 2011, he voiced the character Puss in Boots again for a feature-length film about the cat. In 2012, he starred in 'Haywire', 'He Loves Me' and 'Automata'.
Banderas has two homes. One in Los Angeles where he and Melanie base themselves for work, and one in Spain that they see as their family home, where they escape from the rigours of their busy lives. He is also keen for his daughter, Stella, to absorb both her American and her Spanish roots and to be fluent in English and in Spanish. She therefore travels with her parents between their two homes, enjoying the best of both worlds.