Why Antonio Banderas ditched Hollywood for Cobham

9 August 2019, 10:10 | Updated: 9 August 2019, 11:25

He's a Hollywood A-lister, famed for blockbuster hits such as The Mask Of Zorro, Spy Kids and the Shrek series.

But it seems Antonio Banderas much prefers the quiet life.

The 58-year-old Spanish actor has opened up about his move from Los Angeles to Cobham in Surrey four years ago, saying he needed to live in "a much more real world".

Banderas, who resides in the village with his girlfriend Nicole Kimpel, described Hollywood as "a factory", albeit one with a "very well-done product".

Speaking at the premiere of his new film Pain & Glory, also starring Penelope Cruz, at London's Somerset House, he said: "I came back to a much more real world.

"Hollywood is a place that I am very thankful for. They treated me beautiful and from a personal and professional life in America, I have to be very thankful of what happened there.

"But Europe is more critical. It is more down to earth. I kind of needed that. I was looking for that again.

"Not just in England but Europe in general, Spain included, and the countries I have been working in. We have been working in Italy, we have been working in France.

"We are not so much a factory as Hollywood. Hollywood is a factory that has a very well-done product."

He jokingly added: "But Europe... Europe is another type of wine."

Banderas' Hollywood exit came after his ex-wife Melanie Griffith filed for divorce in May 2014, citing irreconcilable differences.

He suffered a heart attack in 2017, and said in an interview with The Sunday Times Culture magazine earlier this month that it had been a "turning point, psychologically" in his life.

"The tendency you have as a human, after a cardiac event, is to show yourself in a perfect state," he said.

"You want to do even more. You go, 'I can do a good job!'

"And so I chose to do more interesting movies."

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In Pain & Glory, Banderas plays Salvador Mallo, a film director in decline who, through a series of re-encounters, comes face to face with his past.

The film is a semi-autobiographical drama by long-time collaborator Pedro Almodovar, the director behind Volver and Julieta.

Also speaking at the premiere, Cruz said she now has to "really look carefully" at roles before accepting them since becoming a mother.

The Oscar-winning Spanish actress, 45, is married to fellow actor Javier Bardem, 50, and the couple have two children, eight-year-old Leo and six-year-old Luna.

"Because I have two kids and they are young, I decide based on location and how much time (a film) will take," she said. "That's why I take just one or two [films] a year.

"For many years I was doing four or five a year. I cannot have that rhythm now that I am a mother.

"And I don't want that. I want to be able to raise my children myself, so that makes the decision."