It is easy to assume Summer Rain (El Camino De Los Ingleses) carries some autobiographical resonance for Antonio Banderas. The actor's second film as a director after Crazy In Alabama (1999) is set in his hometown of Malaga in the 1970s and relates the experiences of a group of friends during their last summer of innocence.
The story was adapted from a novel by Banderas' childhood friend Antonio Soler and some characters in the novel are named after real people, such as Antonio Meliveo, the film's composer and Banderas' partner (with Carlos Taillefer) in Malaga-based production house Green Moon.
"I was looking for a project that would allow me to ... put myself in the position I was in when I left Malaga," Banderas says. "As soon as I read (Soler's novel), I understood it was the material I was looking for."
Banderas asked Soler, who had no film experience, to write the screenplay, and although the project was not supposed to shoot until this winter, Banderas pushed it forward. "When I get so passionate about something I just need to jump, so I cleared my schedule," he says.
"Without Antonio's name out front we wouldn't have been able to get this film off the ground, or at least it would have been more modest," Meliveo says of the $9.6m budget, split between producers Green Moon, Sogecine and the UK's Future Film Group, with television backing and a series of Andalusian sponsors.
"I could have done it for even less money, and in the future I may attack projects that are more going in that direction," Banderas says. "You can make movies nowadays with less money, especially if you want to experiment."
Part of the experiment was selecting a cast of almost entirely unknown Spanish actors. "I wanted to do something in an absolute space of freedom, and the expectations that I have for the movie in terms of markets are none," says Banderas, who admits his name should help the film's prospects. The film earned a respectable $1.9m in Spain, won the Europa Cinemas award for best European film at Berlin and will be screened across the Europa Cinemas network of 690 screens.
"But at the same time I think my name could be the most damaging thing for the movie. I'm considered, especially in Europe, a commercial actor who makes movies that are trendy and that don't present any kind of risks. But in Crazy In Alabama and in this movie, I discovered myself way more than in any work I have done before."
Banderas has two more projects in the works to direct in Spain between commitments in the US: the $25m-plus Boabdil, about the last Caliph of the kingdom of Granada; and a $1m theatre-inspired piece featuring a conversation between a man and a woman, potentially for himself and wife Melanie Griffith. Among film projects in the US is a reteaming with Bordertown director Gregory Nava on El Compadre, about a popular Latino radio personality.
SUMMER RAIN (EL CAMINO DE LOS INGLESES)
Sex, friendship, violence and love during the course of a summer in the 1970s.
Prods: Green Moon, Sogecine, Future Film Group (UK)
Sales agent: Sogepaq
Key cast: Alberto Amarilla, Maria Ruiz, Felix Gomez, Raul Arevalo, Victoria Abril, Juan Diego