The Other Man - Antonio Banderas and Liam Neeson © Image Entertainment
The Other Man - Ralph (Antonio Banderas) and Peter (Liam Neeson) ©2009 Image Entertainment

Antonio Banderas is the first to admit that he was daunted by playing the role of Ralph in Richard Eyre’s new drama, The Other Man feeling he would have to be ‘courageous and vulnerable’ to express who the character truly was.

The film also stars Liam Neeson as Peter, who has been happily married to Lisa (Laura Linney) for 25 years. When Lisa is gone, Peter discovers a note in one of her shoes that says, ‘Lake Como.’ He then finds that she has been receiving e-mails and phone messages from someone called Ralph. Against the advice of his daughter, Peter flies to Milan to find out the truth behind his wife’s relationship with Ralph.

I spoke with Antonio Banderas about his daunting new role.

What was it about your character that resonated with you?

Antonio Banderas © Image Entertainment

My character was a more troubled person [than I play normally], so I was stepping into a territory that was an unknown zone for me.

It was a kind of nakedness, a separation with the characters that I had been doing during the last 15, 20 years. It was like some of the characters in terms of risk that I had many years ago when I was working in Spain.

He’s a man with a double life, which she has too but in a way she’s rewarded because she got a life. She’s a woman theoretically living in a happy environment, a happy family, but in my case, no.

In my case the only thing real that I have is her. If I don’t have her, I’m a no one pretending the whole time to be somebody else. So that’s quite uncomfortable when you attack a character like that.

Do you feel Lisa wants her husband to know about your character Ralph?

Laura Linney and Antonio Banderas © Image Entertainment

There is an honesty in the character that Laura portrays, because I think at the end clearly she wants her husband to find out. And there is a certain pardon at the end of the movie which all the characters come to terms, including her, in which they all find a pardon for every sin that they have committed and they recognize each other as human beings.

This is a movie that would have been impossible to have made in Hollywood because it would have cut all the peaks and the lulls of the movie and made something very edible for the audiences.

The movie definitely has a big amount of reflection about it. It doesn’t give you straight answers but the possibility of sitting down in front of a screen to reflect about things that are very deep into the soul of human beings.

Do you have a place that you like that is your Lake Como?

It’s Spain for me. I’m living out of my natural environment so when I go to Malaga I can speak my own language. I can communicate with my friends and they are the same friends that I had when I was 14, 15 years old so I feel tremendously comfortable, relaxed.

I can be totally myself without having to pretend, not that I do too much because, just as discovering at some point in your career that the best thing you can ever do is just to be yourself which is not an easy thing.

What would you like people to take away from this film?

Laura and I were talking about this and we think if a couple goes to the movie and they go for dinner [afterwards] they’re going to be talking about it and they’re going to be taking a lot of positions in terms of morality. People are going to support her. People are going to support Liam.

People are even going to see me as a victim. So there are a lot of questions but there are no answers. We are too used to receiving answers.

What can you tell us about Shrek 4?

It’s almost ready. Jeffrey called me yesterday actually and he said they were going to watch it this morning.

How would you compare the fourth Shrek with the first three?

It’s totally different. Something happens at the beginning of the story that changes the identity of all the characters, so it’s almost like a new movie.

The characters are different physically, you’ll see.

What about the Puss ‘n’ Boots spin-off?

They allowed me to finally read the script for the Puss ‘n’ Boots story and it’s fantastic. Selma Hayek is going to be attached to it. I suppose we’ll start recording probably in February.

The same thing may happen that happened with my first Shrek, that I am in the theatre [on Broadway] and I have to go to a recording studio and do strange noises in the morning, and singing in the afternoon.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter. More by Judy Sloane