Antonio Banderas says he's still close with 'best friend' Melanie Griffith: 'She is my family'

Antonio Banderas still has love for Melanie Griffith. In an interview with Vulture, the Pain and Glory star called his ex-wife "family," saying she's "one of my best friends, if not the best friend I have." The 59-year-old actor recalled meeting Griffith in 1989 and being in awe of the actress — so much so that he couldn't remember her name.

"The first time I went to the Academy Awards after [director Pedro Almodovar] got a nomination for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, we got on the red carpet and I saw this blonde woman and I knew her because I saw movies of her, but I didn’t remember [her name] at the time. So, I said to Pedro, 'Who is she? Who is she? What is her name?' Pedro said, 'That’s Melanie Griffith!' I said, 'That’s it. Oh my God,'" Banderas said. "Six years later, I was married to her."

Cast member Antonio Banderas and his wife actress Melanie Griffith arrive on the red carpet for the film "The Skin I Live In" during the 36th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) September 11, 2011. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (CANADA - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)

Banderas and Griffith divorced in 2015 after almost 20 years together, but he says the two are very close.

"Everything happened in those years really fast," he continued. "My life was fast and fascinating if I actually see it in retrospective. I remember those years as very effervescent and really beautiful. I am not married with Melanie anymore but she is my family. She is probably one of my best friends, if not the best friend that I have. My family is there, Dakota [Johnson], Little Estella and Alexander."

Banderas and Griffith had one child together, daughter Stella. The actress also had two children from two prior marriages, Dakota Johnson and Alexander Bauer, but they were raised as one family. The actor fondly talked about nicknames they had around the house.

"Melanie called me Negrito. And I used to call her Rubia," he recalled. "Rubia is 'blonde' in Spanish and Negrito is 'little black boy.' I don’t know why she called me that, but she called me Negrito. I’ve never told this to anybody. You’re the first person, actually. And Dakota called me Paponio, which is a mixture between papa, which is ‘daddy’ in Spanish, and Antonio. I am her Antonio papa, so Paponio."

Banderas added that he's very proud of Dakota Johnson's blossoming career.

"I met her when she was five years old! I followed every single step of it," he boasted. "I’m so proud of her. I saw her the other day in Toronto, and she looks — as I said in the social networks when I put a picture of her and myself, I put there, 'My radiant Dakota.'"

Griffith still feels warmly towards Banderas, too. She told InStyle that she "loves" all of her former husbands, noting, "We’re all very close."

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