Antonio Banderas says his heart attack was one of the factors that impacted ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’

‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ (Photo: DreamWorks/Universal)

In 2017 Role Recall interview with Yahoo Entertainment, Salma Hayek mused that the 2011 animated hit Puss in Boots — in which she voiced the titular feline hero’s feisty rival/love interest Kitty Softpaws — marked the first time Hollywood hired her for her Mexican accent, not shunning her for it.

Needless to say, Hayek, 56, was eager to reprise the role of Kitty in the inevitable sequel to the Shrek spin-off that grossed more than $550 million. But then she waited… and waited… and waited. “We were hoping this would happen for over a decade, Antonio and I,” she told us in a recent interview, referring of course to Antonio Banderas, whose swashbuckling tabby cat with those impossibly swoony eyes first stole the show in 2004’s Shrek II. “Because they told us the first movie was a huge success.”

There were a couple false starts, to the point where Hayek said it felt like The Boy Who Cried Wolf any time they would hear the sequel was in motion again.

So what took so long for Puss in Boots: The Last Wish will it finally hit theaters this week? The follow-up to How to Train Your Dragon — another DreamWorks animated series, for example — came out four years later, with a third installment five years after that.

There were a variety of reasons for the long gestation, Banderas says. DreamWorks changed hands, from Paramount to Universal, in 2016. There were changes at director (Guillermo del Toro was even among those temporarily onboard) before Joel Crawford eventually stepped in. There was a pandemic in 2020, maybe you’ve heard.

“And I suppose that actually has to do also with a scare that I had in 2017, in which I almost lost my life,” Banderas told us in a recent interview. In January of that year, the now-62-year-old Spanish-born actor suffered a heart attack. In seemingly fine health at the time, he was rushed to the hospital and later underwent surgery to have three stents implanted into his coronary arteries. (He has since called the health scare “one of the best things that’s happened in my life” for changing his perspective on what’s most important to him.)

Fittingly then, and perhaps not so coincidentally, The Last Wish centers around the mortality of its hero. When Puss is killed in action in the early goings (you may want to warn the kiddos), he’s told in the afterlife that he has one of his nine lives left. This eventually sends Puss on an adventure, joined by Kitty and scene-stealing newcomer Perrito (Harvey Guillén) to find the mystical “Last Wish” in hopes Puss can restore his lost lives.

“It’s very daring, actually, that a movie that is for young people just reflects [on] these issues openly, in a very elegant way, and very carefully, too,” Banderas says. “I think it’s a beautiful proposal because it’s done beautifully. I was surprised that we were going there. But if there’s [any] character that can do it, it’s Puss in Boots.”

Hayek says the 11-year interval between movies “was worth waiting for the right situation,” pointing to Crawford. “The right 400 people involved, because that’s what it takes to make one of these movies.”

'Puss in Boots: The Last Wish'  (DreamWorks/Universal)

‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ (Photo: DreamWorks/Universal)

One of those “right” people is Guillén (What We Do in the Shadows), whose hilarious hyperactive therapy dog ​​Perrito is to The Last Wish what Puss was to Shrek II. He chews up the scenery like it’s a bone.

Not that the actor will acknowledge his star turn.

“I didn’t steal anything,” he laughs. “I just wanted to be as authentic as I could with Perrito, [that was never] my thought to process. To hear that is very nice, thank you for the compliment, but he’s just a nice addition to this world, I think. And his energy is something I think everyone can long for, especially with the last couple years that we’ve had and the world that we live in.”

As a newcomer to the series, Crawford (Croods: A New Age) loved seeing (hearing) Banderas and Hayek continue to put their own distinct twists on the characters.

“They bring so much to it, not just knowing their characters, but also culturally,” he says.

“It’s important to include our culture, who we are, our language,” Hayek responds.

US actor Harvey Guillen (L), US-Mexican actress Salma Hayek (C) and Spanish actor Antonio Banderas arrive for the premiere of

Harvey Guillén, Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas arrive for the premiere of ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ in New York City on Dec.13, 2022. (Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

That returns to what Hayek told us in 2017, an experience Banderas says he shared as well.

“I arrived to the United States in the beginning of the ’90s, I was 31 years old when I got there, 32 when I did my first American movie, and I didn’t speak the language,” he explains. “So the fact that they called me 10 years later, just for the use of my voice, that was unprecedented. It was unexplainable to me. But in a way, it also [meant] the acceptance of the Spanish community in Hollywood.

“This was a movie aimed at young audiences. And the fact that the hero of the movie has an accent, and the fact that some of the bad guys, they don’t, he opens a door for diversity and to change the [minds] of those young people to think in a different way. To think that everything is possible and we are not answering to [stereotypes]. You know, there are good people in every community and bad people in every community, and that’s how life operates. We are not good or bad because of the color of our skin or the accent that we have. And that was an important message for the Spanish community. This character is adored all around the world, in many different countries. By the Spanish community, he is worshipped.”

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is now playing.

Watch the trailer:

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