Tribeca Film Festival: Antonio Banderas is Picasso in Season 2 of Genius

The charming Spanish actor Antonio Banderas transforms himself into Picasso in the second season of National Geographic’s anthology series “Genius: Picasso.” The premiere took place Friday night at the Tribeca Film Festival, which has expanded its television offering into a substantial part of their program. 

Along with Banderas, fellow cast members Alex Rich, T.R. Knight, Clémence Poésy, Seth Gabel, Samantha Colley, executive producers Brian Grazer and Francie Calfo, along with show runner Ken Biller, turned up on the red carpet to support the show. (Actress Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of “Genius” executive producer Ron Howard, also walked the red carpet.)

Picasso
Bryce Dallas Howard/Paula Schwartz photo

The ten-episode series switches back and forth in time between Picasso the young man (Alex Rich) during his formative years, and Picasso the older man who was entwined in complicated relationships with lovers and wives but always most obsessed with his art and what it meant to be an artist.

Although it’s difficult to hear Banderas’s softly hypnotic voice without thinking of the animated outlaw cat Puss n Boots, he seems to have been destined to play the great Spanish artist. Like Picasso, Banderas was born in Malaga, and Picasso’s house was within view of his mother’s home. 

After the screening of the first episode, Banderas came out to talk about the series with co-stars Clémence Poésy, Samantha Colley, Alex Rich, executive producers BrianGrazer and Francie Calfo and Ken Biller.

Watch the entire discussion here:

GENIUS: PICASSO

‪Antonio Banderas takes on his boldest role yet in the fascinating Genius: PICASSO. Watch LIVE as Banderas talks about the series with co-stars Clémence Poésy and Samantha Colley, executive producers @BrianGrazer and Francie Calfo, and more at #Tribeca2018.

Posted by Tribeca on Friday, April 20, 2018

Asked during the panel discussion about the most eye opening thing he learned about Picasso, Banderas replied, “Picasso himself, his own personality, we know very much about him, the artist, but we didn’t know so much about the person, the every day man that we were visiting during five months, his tremendous independence, his lack of justification. He never justified  anything,” said Banderas, “even with a very complicated life, a life in which he left behind some collateral damages.”

Picasso
Samantha Colley/Paula Schwartz photo

Banderas said it was profound “to discover this kind of dichotomy between the genius we know, the one that we love which is the Picasso in the museums and than there is the human being who travels with a back pack filled with greatnesses and with miseries.”

In the past Banderas turned down the chance to play the great artist, because he said, “I was really afraid of playing him. He was such a big figure for me, so complicated, but at the same time he was from my hometown.” He worried that he wouldn’t get a grip on the character. “Let’s face it, he’s a very mysterious man.” The actor said he still found Picasso mysterious even after five months of research. “I think he was mysterious to himself.”

 Banderas said his fears have lessened with age. He is now 58 and last year had a heart attack. “I saw the face of death,” Banderas said. He felt ready to take on the role.

Banderas said he spent five months trying to imagine the character he was going to play, concerned he not fail him. “I’m trying to leave aside the morality or judgement,” he said. “We all know what Picasso did and we all know what Picasso said. What we don’t know completely is why.”

Earlier on the red carpet, Samantha Colley, who plays Picasso’s mistress Dora Maar, told me all of Picasso’s women knew about each other.  “They weren’t victims., that’s the thing that I’m quite adamant delineating,” she said.”Picasso  didn’t treat women that well but he didn’t treat men that well either,” she said. “Genius doesn’t lend itself to be a good partner in relationships, be it be platonic or romantic.” 

Clémence Poésy, who plays Picasso’s mistress Francoise Walter, said of Banderas that he“was very playful, he’s very generous. He’s up for taking scenes in unexpected directions.”

Picasso
Banderas and Clemence Poesy/Paula Schwartz photo

As for her character, who she described as a modern woman, “I find that I’m portraying someone who feels in love with Picasso passionately and never regrets it. He was the greatest passion of her life but at some point she was becoming an assistant and wasn’t becoming the artist she knew she was and decided to leave and lead her own career at a time when it was quite hard for a woman to do that, so I feel like that’s an interesting story to tell right now.”

 

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About Paula Schwartz

Paula Schwartz is a veteran journalist who worked at the New York Times for three decades. For five years she was the Baguette for the New York Times movie awards blog Carpetbaggers. Before that she worked on the New York Times night life column, Boldface, where she covered the celebrity beat. She endured a poke in the ribs by Elijah Wood's publicist, was ejected from a party by Michael Douglas's flak after he didn't appreciate what she wrote, and endured numerous other indignities to get a story. More happily she interviewed major actors and directors - all of whom were good company and extremely kind- including Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood, Christopher Plummer, Dustin Hoffman and the hammy pooch "Uggie" from "The Artist." Her idea of heaven is watching at least three movies in a row with an appreciative audience that's not texting. Her work has appeared in Moviemaker, more.com, showbiz411 and reelifewithjane.com.