One of the most popular - and undoubtedly, sexiest - Spanish film stars of our time shares his love of this centuries-old city.
In this month's thriller Original Sin, Antonio Banderas plays a Cuban tycoon recently married to a sexy, dangerous, and unpredictable young bride, scorchingly portrayed by Angelina Jolie. But while the movie's setting mimics 1880's colonial Cuba, the film was actually shot in and around Mexico City. It was there, too, that Banderas filmed The Mask of Zorro. Banderas' love of Mexico is undoubtedly tied to the city's similarities to his native Spain, from which he arrived in Hollywood in 1991, speaking no English, to star in The Mambo Kings. He learned his lines phonetically and his performance introduced him as an international star, heir to the Latin Lover throne of Rudolph Valentino. Raised in Malaga, he planned to become a professional soccer player until a foot injury and a viewing of the 1979 movie Hair derailed his dreams. He promptly enrolled in drama school and traveled across his homeland in his own theatrical company. Meeting quixotic Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar - to whom he presented last year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar - Banderas became a star in Spanish cinema. In Hollywood, he was soon working with legends like Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire, Madonna in Evita, and Sir Anthony Hopkins in The Mask of Zorro. He fell in love with Melanie Griffith in 1995 when they co-starred in the comedy Two Much. They were married in 1996 and had a daughter, Stella del Carmen, the following fall. Banderas now lives in a 15,000-square-foot, nine-bedroom Hollywood mansion, fielding nonstop offers to direct and star in major motion pictures. But he remains humbled by the people, art, and architecture of the oldest city in North America, La Ciudad. "I feel like Mexico is part of me - the language and the history," he says. Here's where you can find Antonio Banderas in the city of 23 million people.
"If you want a place with a lot of resources - a gym and massages -and want to be very comfortable and secure, the best place is the Four Seasons on the avenue Reforma. I've been staying there since I did Zorro. Another hotel is a little place with only 10 rooms called Casa Vieja. If you are going to Mexico and want a taste of the place, this is the hotel for you. It's a beautiful place, painted in the Mexican style with a lot of color. Every piece of furniture, every painting, is traditional Mexican style. The kitchen may be open the entire night, so you can go in and prepare yourself some food. It is absolutely a space where you feel more at home. You have to make reservations a long time ahead, because it's starting to get famous with a circle of people who book the hotel continuously. Every time I want to go there, I have to call six months before."
"There are two restaurants that I love. One is La Hacienda de los Morales, and the other is the San Ángel Inn. They are big restaurants with typical Mexican food. Both of them are huge haciendas, historical colonial buildings. Both have patios, beautiful architecture, graceful lawns, good service. San Ángel is a little bit away from the urban center. It's in a very nice area where rich people live. It gives you a glimpse of another time. Even though you're surrounded by huge buildings, you feel like you're in another time, in another place. My thing in Mexico is sopa del tortilla, and I love tamales of any kind. I love the hot food. But I have a problem with my stomach, so I cannot eat it. At San Ángel Inn, they have chicken or beef tamales. La Hacienda de los Morales is practically the same thing, but it's in the center of the city. The same type of Mexican food: fajitas, quesadillas, all the resources of the land."
"You'll find mariachis playing at both La Hacienda de los Morales and the San Ángel Inn. But if you go to the Plaza Garibaldi, a huge square, you'll find an incredible amount of mariachis, especially in the afternoon and evening. It's almost like a joke. You can find probably a hundred mariachis playing. You can just hire them to play anywhere you want: your home, your hotel, a party."