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Antonio Banderas Writes About How Puss in Boots Redefined What a Hero Looks and Sounds Like



There are defining roles that come along once or maybe twice a lifetime, and I have to say that voicing the glorious gato Puss in Boots for almost two decades has made a huge impact in my life. Of course, when I was first asked to play this beautifully imagined and animated character, I had no idea that it would have such a phenomenal global appeal and lasting power.

Coming back to voice the memorable hero for Puss in Boots: The Last Wish has been a remarkable experience. I felt like I was visiting a very dear, clever friend that I hadn’t heard from in a few years. We both have grayer whiskers and are no longer the brash, young players we used to be. But we’re now wiser and more introspective — or at least I hope so!

Antonio Banderas

Antonio Banderas

Juan Naharro Gimenez/WireImage

One of the things I am most proud of is that Puss in Boots is a role model in the magical world of animation. It’s no secret that I struggled with my English when I first arrived in Hollywood in 1988. I was told my accent was too heavy, that I would be typecast and be destined to play the “bad guy.” It was quite a challenging time for me. I was eager to prove myself as an actor and to break out of the limited roles that were being offered to me, so I remained optimistic, and I knew that if I could find the right project, I could showcase my talents beyond villainous roles. So, when the brilliant minds at DreamWorks Animation decided to introduce Puss in Boots Shrek 2 and honored me with the chance to voice Puss, it proved to be a game-changer — not just for me, but for the industry as well.

One of the things that I always loved about Puss in Boots is that he’s a hero with an accent. That Puss would go on to delight so many children who had rarely seen or heard a character at the center of the cinematic story who maybe sounded like them — or sounded like the people they knew — is one of the greatest joys of my life. No matter how old you are, visibility matters. It matters to see yourself represented as a hero, be it live action or animated.

In the years since Puss in Boots debuted as a part of the Shrek franchise, the representation of animated film characters has exploded, from 2017’s Coco and 2021’s Encantowhich both tell vibrant stories about Latino culture and traditions, to 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which introduced the coolest Spider-Man ever in Miles Morales, a character that redefined the traditional archetype of what a superhero looks like. All of these Oscar-winning films remind us of how important representation is, and how, sometimes, it only takes one daring portrayal to open the door to a new era. Animation is such a robust medium, with endless possibilities for stories and characters. When I look back at the past 20 years, I’m humbled to think this swashbuckling feline helped pave the way for more leading characters and roles in animation that represent rich, beautiful cultures around the world.

And this year, Puss is the lead of a film nominated for best animated feature at the Academy Awards alongside other movies that use the magic of animation to tell imaginative and complex stories for audiences of all ages. These characters, just like Puss, offer new ways of seeing the world: a young girl who goes on a high-seas adventure in The Sea Beastanother young woman whose emotions get the better of her Turning Redan Italian puppet who longs to be a real boy in Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchioand the inquisitive title character in Marcel the Shell With Shoes On. Like Puss in Boots: The Last Wishthese stories prove that the things that make us different from others also make us extraordinary.

When I think about the core message of our movie, about appreciating the life you’ve been given and appreciating the people you choose to spend it with — the people you call family — I can’t help but see similarities in my own life. I think that is why this film has really struck a chord with audiences all over the world.

I’m so proud to be part of such a diverse ensemble, and I would be remiss not to call out my longtime dear friend, collaborator and co-star Salma Hayek as well as Harvey Guillén, who joined our team as the relentlessly upbeat little Dog Perrito. Their performances inspire me, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for these characters who were brought into the world alongside my animated alter ego.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 22 issue of The News84Media magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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