Antonio Banderas: 'I thought I was going to die'

Greer McNally
Antonio Banderas and his girlfriend Nicole Kimpel at the CineMerit Gala during the Munich Film Festival at Gasteig on June 29, 2019 in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Gisela Schober/Getty Images)

Not many people view a heart attack as a good thing. But when Antonio Banderas had one, it made him change his life forever.

“I thought I was going to die, and it made me understand life in a deeper, more complex way,” he explained in an interview in today’s Independent. The actor now considers the affliction “one of the best things to ever happen to me.”

Banderas recalled how the illness impacted his life choices. “I detached from things that are not important any more – the car, and this and that – and then I just put my attention in family, friends and in recovering... well, the essence of why I became an actor.”

Read more: Antonio Banderas on leaving Hollywood: I had to return to a much more real world

Until 2015 Banderas was thought to have one of the most enduring marriages in Hollywood. He had been married to Melanie Griffith for 19 years when the pair finally divorced.

Read more: Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas Finalise Their Divorce

These days he lives with his girlfriend, Dutch model Nicole Kimpel, who he met soon after the split, in Cobham in Surrey. The pair recently walked the red carpet in Cannes for Banderas’ new film Pain and Glory, for which he won the film festival’s best actor award.

Nicole Kimpel and Antonio Banderas at the screening red carpet for "Pain And Glory (Dolor Y Gloria/Douleur Et Gloire)" during the 72nd Cannes Film Festival at the Palais des Festivals on May 17, 2019 in Cannes, France. (Photo by P. Lehman / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

He calls the film with long-time collaborator director Pedro Almodovarone of the most beautiful experiences of my life”. Adding “[It was] an exercise in being humble and saying, ‘OK, I will understand what you wanna do and I am gonna detach from every tool that I had before’.”

The film, which has a 90% score on Rotten Tomatoes, is a return to form for the actor/director duo. It has already picked up a flurry of awards, with the Evening Standard calling it “Almodóvar's best work for years”.