Antonio Banderas Stars as Dancer Pierre Dulaine in 'Take the Lead'

Banderas Rates His Dancing Skills and Discusses 'Take the Lead'

Antonio Banderas as Pierre and Anna Dimitrie Melamed as his dance partner in Take the Lead.
Antonio Banderas as Pierre and Anna Dimitrie Melamed as his dance partner in Take the Lead. © New Line Cinema

Music video director Liz Friedlander makes her feature film directorial debut with Take the Lead, the music-driven family drama inspired by the true story of Pierre Dulaine. The story centers around acclaimed ballroom dancer Dulaine (played by Antonio Banderas) who volunteers to teach New York City school kids serving detention. Dulaine’s ballroom dancing style isn’t something the kids readily embrace, but gradually he wins them over and inspires them to succeed.

Together Dulaine and the students combine their talents and create something new, unique and refreshing.

Antonio Banderas Describes the Real Pierre Dulaine: There’s a scene in Take the Lead in which Dulaine is obviously passing the torch to the younger generation. Instead of jumping in and participating, he simply turns and leaves. Banderas talks about that specific scene: “I wanted to jump in with the kids but it was time to leave. Actually, that ending says very much about the character and about the whole entire project for me, in the way that he leaves at the end. It was beautiful. He’s very invisible, like he does everything in his life. He just looks and the door goes, and that’s it.

It’s a beautiful thing and Pierre Dulaine is a little bit like that, a very invisible man. Kind of sort of traveling away, kind of mysterious, too, in another way. I love all of those features of him. I loved that from the moment I met him and I tried to keep the characters like that."

Banderas continued. “He’s kind of mysterious. You don’t know really his background. You know a little bit because one of the kids in an attack of horniness comes to his house, picks up a picture of his wife so you realize in the movie that he’s a widower. But until that point, you don’t know where he’s coming from.

You just get the little details at the beginning, ‘My mother is Spanish. My father is French…’

Some people asked me in [another interview], did you say that because you have to justify your accent? But in reality, Pierre Dulaine is not called Pierre Dulaine. Pierre Dulaine is a stage name. He’s called a different way and it’s true that he was born in Palestine, that he has lived all around the world and he speaks several languages - and he speaks with an accent in all of them. So that was familiar. I said, ‘Whoa, I can do this guy.’”

Capturing Pierre Dulaine Onscreen: Banderas said the most important characteristics of Pierre he needed to capture were his capacity for love and sharing with nothing in return. “That’s what surprised me the most because it’s a very rare animal in our days,” said Banderas. “He was successful, his Academy would have received people, taught people to dance in an easy way. Normally he’s just like [teaching] mature people so they don’t give you any problems. They pay you. He didn’t have to do this.

We had dinner, it was the night before we started principal photography and I asked that question to him: ‘Why did you do this?’ He said, ‘Because, man, I was successful in my life what I wanted to do.

I had a lot of fun, a lot of friends and I wanted to give something back.’ It sounds very simple and that’s the way that he said it. He said, ‘I enjoy that. I find a pleasure in seeing people blossoming and getting out of problems through something that I love very much, which is dancing.’

Sometimes they said that actors or artists in general are not productive for society because we talk about very material things. We don’t produce tomatoes or potatoes or milk or something that’s useful, cars. We just go to the heart. I think he took that very important, with a lot of importance in his life so he wanted to share that.”

The Physical Stuff Takes Its Toll: During the press days for Banderas’ latest Zorro movie, he admitted the physical aspects of acting are getting more difficult as he gets older.

Even dancing in Take the Lead was, at times, tough to handle. Banderas laughed, “That Russian girl was a little bit too energetic. Unbelievable…”

Fortunately for his body, Banderas didn’t have to practice that scene much. “Not too many times. In total, the total of 15-16 days rehearsals, an hour, hour and a half each one of them, no more because then we get really tired, sweaty,” explained Banderas. “I have to do all the rehearsals at the same time as the scenes and stuff so we were just alternating the process of dancing and doing scenes, because the kids were in the same place where we were dancing, too. We were rehearsing everything at the same time. I would have loved to have more time. I was really surprised when I saw the movie. ‘Oh, that’s good.’”

Page 2: Antonio Banderas on Dancing and Bonding with the Young Cast of Take the Lead

Page 2

Antonio Banderas Rates His Dancing Skills: “Bad. I'm not a good dancer. I’m not even a dancer. I'm just an actor who pretends to dance and that’s all. Because I’m not a swordfighter, either. Or a horse rider or any of those things that I have done in my life that has to do with the physicality.

I think I am good at moving. I think I am good at learning choreography. But it's just pretending in film.

If I go to a place to do… In fact, in rehearsal I can do it. In fact, I did it on Broadway which I did every night for 238 performances and I didn’t drop her off and I got my eyes blindfolded too (laughing). But I am not a dancer and that's the truth.”

Banderas only began dancing when it was necessary for a role. “Just since I had to do it in a movie for the first time, which I think was Mambo Kings. After that I did Evita with Madonna and I did another movie in Spain called The Court of the Pharaoh many years ago and I danced, too. But as I told you, it's one of the tools I can do for my acting career, but I never took classes. I never went to school or anything like that. I just learned the choreographies in whatever movie that I am.”

Bonding with the Cast of Take the Lead: Banderas went as far as to invite the young actors to his home to bond. “It was because I wanted to bond with them and because I want them to bond to each other too.

So I talked to the director and I said to her, ‘Do you mind if I do these things, invite them for dinner?’ She said, ‘No, I love this. Absolutely.’ So it just happened every Saturday night when we didn’t have anything to do on Sunday, all of them together. It was beautiful, put on some music, talk about this, tell stories.

We had a lot of fun and that is very important. For a movie like that it’s very important.

I have to do the same process with my movie in Spain because it’s also a movie of coming of age. Way harder than this, totally different in the way that it’s dark and it’s very sexual. But I had to do the same thing, the same process. So I brought the kids three weeks before principal photography in Malaga, put them in a hotel and I made them do a lot of activities together. And in two weeks, they were [close]. And still, they called me yesterday when I was coming here. They called me from Madrid and they were all having dinner together. They keep going.”

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Murray, Rebecca. "Antonio Banderas Stars as Dancer Pierre Dulaine in 'Take the Lead'." ThoughtCo, Feb. 15, 2014, Murray, Rebecca. (2014, February 15). Antonio Banderas Stars as Dancer Pierre Dulaine in 'Take the Lead'. Retrieved from Murray, Rebecca. "Antonio Banderas Stars as Dancer Pierre Dulaine in 'Take the Lead'." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 18, 2017).