Antonio Banderas says heart attack helped him reinvent himself

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Antonio Banderas said a heart attack he suffered two years ago spurred him into a health kick but also allowed him to reinvent himself as an actor, including as he prepared to take on the lead role in Pedro Almodovar’s autobiographical new movie.

“It was fantastic advice for my life,” Banderas told Reuters in an interview in Cannes, where Almodovar’s “Pain And Glory” is vying for the French film festival’s top Palme D’Or prize.

“I don’t smoke anymore, I do more exercise than ever. I feel more clear in my brain and I kind of reinvented myself.”

The 58-year-old Spaniard, known for films like “The Mask of Zorro” and “Evita”, recently took on the role of painter Pablo Picasso in television drama “Genius”.

“I am reflecting very much about my acting career. And I feel very fresh and very new,” he said.

“Pain And Glory” - about an ageing, tormented film director who looks back at his life - reunites Banderas with Penelope Cruz, also a longtime Almodovar collaborator.

Both were left teary-eyed after its Friday screening at Cannes and Banderas choked up at a news conference on Saturday, saying the months spent working on the film had been some of his happiest yet as an actor in a career spanning over 100 movies.

Banderas said his health scare had also helped him wipe the slate clean as he prepared to play protagonist Salvador, something Almodovar was very demanding about.

“He wants you new, fresh, different, getting rid of all these mannerisms,” Banderas told Reuters.

The actor said he had not known at first that Almodovar, a close friend, would be digging deep into his personal life for the plotline of the new movie, which the director has described as part autobiography, part fiction.

“(Almodovar) called me on the phone and he said ‘I’m going to send you a script that you are going to find (has) a lot of references to people that you know’,” Banderas said.

“So he sent it to me and I read it and I was (like) ‘oh my God, it’s him.’”

Additional reporting by Sarah White; Writing by Sarah White; Editing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian