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Antonio Banderas credits drag queen with saving his life

In a recent interview to promote Pedro Almodóvar's “Pain and Glory,” the Spanish actor said he wouldn’t be alive today if not for a drag performer.
Image: Antonio Banderas attends the Deauville American Film Festival in France on Sept. 6, 2017.
Antonio Banderas attends the Deauville American Film Festival in France on Sept. 6, 2017.Francois G. Durand / Getty Images file

Antonio Banderas revealed that a drag queen saved his life after he got into a motorbike accident in 1976, when he was 16 years old.

“The front wheel of my motorbike went into a ditch and, boom! I hit a car and my head hit the tank. Bam!” the Spanish actor said in a recent interview with The Independent. “Then this person who was working a corner for clients came from nowhere, got in the middle of the road and stopped a car to take me to the hospital.”

Banderas added that there was “blood everywhere” and that his bone underneath the skin was visible. He still has a scar on his calf today, but it could have been much more tragic if not for the mystery drag queen in a wig and dress who helped him that night.

“The Mask of Zorro” star is currently promoting his latest film “Pain and Glory,” which is written and directed by the Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar. Banderas plays Salvador Mallo, a gay film director grappling with professional and medical difficulties, in the Spanish language drama — a performance that earned him the best actor award at Cannes in May.

This isn’t the first gay character Banderas, who is straight, has undertaken. The actor played Antonio in “Law of Desire,” a movie about a love triangle among two men and a transgender woman. He also portrayed Miguel Álvarez, who had a relationship with Tom Hanks’ character in “Philadelphia” (1993), one of the first mainstream Hollywood films to depict AIDS.

The “gay for pay” phenomenon — where straight actors are cast more often for LGBTQ roles than queer actors — is a controversial issue in Hollywood. When asked what he thought about it, Banderas said he has “always tried to be very respectful to the gay community.”

“I’m an actor. I just play the character and try to believe them completely when I’m doing them. I try not to perform them; I try to live them,” he told The Independent. “But, you know, I’m not Zorro, either. I have never been heroic. I run away!”

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