Banderas was born in Málaga, Andalucía, Spain to José Domínguez, a State Department worker, and Doña Ana Banderas, a teacher. He has a brother, Francisco. Banderas was raised a Catholic, but no longer follows the religion.
Banderas initially wanted to play soccer professionally, but his dream ended when he broke his foot at age 14. As a young man, he travelled penniless to Madrid, in order to make a career in the Spanish film industry.
Banderas first gained wide attention through a series of films by director Pedro Almodóvar, between 1982 and 1990, in which his characters often engaged in sex scenes considered explicit by American standards. His breakthrough role was as the character “Ricky” in Atame! (English-language title: Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!), which was a minor success in the United States. He subsequently moved to the U.S. and began appearing in American films; some of his earlier roles there included the 1992 film, The Mambo Kings, as well as a supporting role in the Oscar-winning 1993 film, Philadelphia. He appeared in several major Hollywood releases in 1995, including a starring role in the Robert Rodriguez-directed film, Desperado.
For the majority of the 1990s and 2000s, Banderas remained in the United States and has starred in several notable box office successes, including playing the title role in the The Mask of Zorro (1998) and The Legend of Zorro (2005). Banderas has also frequently collaborated with his Desperado director, Rodriguez, who cast Banderas in the Spy Kids film trilogy and the final installment in the “Mariachi” trilogy, Once Upon A Time In Mexico. Banderas’ sole credit as a director was the poorly-received Crazy in Alabama (1999), starring his wife Melanie Griffith.
In 2003, Banderas appeared, to great acclaim, in the Broadway revival of Maury Yeston’s musical Nine, based on the film 8 1/2, playing the prime role originated by the late Raul Julia. Banderas won both the Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk awards, and was nominated for the Tony Award for best actor in a musical. His performance is preserved on the Broadway cast recording released by PS Classics.
Banderas’ voice role as Puss in Boots in Shrek 2 made the character popular on the family film circuit, and a spin-off movie starring his character is scheduled for release in 2008. His latest film, Take the Lead, a high-school movie in which he plays a real-life ballroom dancing teacher, opened on April 7, 2006.
Banderas’ upcoming projects include starring as the title character in a new Broadway production of the 1995 film, Don Juan DeMarco, as well as in the films Conquistador, a historical epic in which he will play Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes (filming will begin in September 2006 in Spain, Mexico and South America), and Shrek 3 (currently scheduled for a 2007 release), in which he will once again voice Puss In Boots.
Banderas divorced his first wife, Ana Leza, and in 1996 married actress Melanie Griffith, whom he had met during the shooting of Two Much. They have a daughter, Stella del Carmen Banderas Griffith (also simply Stella Banderas), who appeared in the film Crazy in Alabama, which Banderas directed.
Banderas has invested his movie earnings in businesses marketing Andalusian products, which he promotes in Spain and the USA. He is a fan of the Spanish soccer club Real Madrid.