Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios, 1988
(Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown)

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Writer and Director: Pedro Almodovar

Other Actors: Carmen Maura, Julieta Serrano, Maria Barranco, Rossy de Palma, Fernando Guillen

This film was nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film of 1988 and was the first Spanish film distributed world-wide (by Orion). Almodovar and his troupe toured the film festivals of Cannes, Venice, Berlin, New York and Los Angeles.

For Antonio, this farcical film meant a welcome change from the very dramatic characters he had been playing. Antonio plays Carlos -- the one man linked to all of the women. "Carlos is the character that is the link between all the others, between all those women on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I am the son of Lucia (Julieta Serrano) and I want to leave home because I can't stand it. My fiancée is Marissa (Rossy de Palma) and with her, by chance, I stop on the floor of Pepa (Carmen Maura), who is the former lover of my father (Fernando Guillen). There I meet Candela (Maria Barranco), who ends up being my girlfriend at the end of the movie. He (Carlos) is the only male character who has contact with them. Carlos is very timid, very good, he even stutters. His clothes are out-of-style and he wears glasses. He is a little naive."

This film was a huge hit in Spain because it had wide audience appeal. There were no threatening characters and no explicit sex scenes. Many Almodovar fans consider this to be one of his weaker films because it is light and lacks Pedro's usual outlandishness. But, this is the movie that made Antonio Banderas a nationally recognized name.

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This is Antonio's fourth film with Almodovar and his third with Carmen Maura.

Antonio attended the Oscars for the first time and saw his future wife, Melanie Griffith for the first time too. "She was up for Best Actress for Working Girl and I remember thinking that she was very beautiful. She had on a white dress with pearls. For some reason that stuck in my mind." Antonio also remembers being overwhelmed that he was in the same building with so many stars.

Antonio also met a man named Emanuel Nunez who told him about a project that Antonio might be interested in called The Mambo Kings. Emanuel Nunez would later become Antonio's American agent.

Antonio started filming Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios in October 1987. The previous July he had married Ana Leza and she took small roles in some of his films. The marriage put an end to his wild bachelor days in Madrid. Antonio had spent nights with his friends bar-hopping, going to concerts, sporting events, theater and riding motorcycles. Antonio says, "There were people during this time who told me that I was a hoodlum and the 'king of the night' in Madrid. I never went to bed before 6 or 7 in the morning, and you met some very strange people who would involve you in many things and mislead you a little."

Antonio was the star of romantic exploits and was an accomplished flirt. He had relationships with a considerable number of women. His friends often discussed his capacity for 'erotic business.' Imanol Arias, one of Antonio's best friends, says that sometimes Antonio disappeared for a time and "he suddenly appeared, and informed you that he had been with a much older wealthy woman."

But, on July 27, 1987, Antonio changed his life by marrying theater and fine art student, Ana Leza. Pedro Almodovar and Carmen Maura were witnesses. Antonio's colleagues were not convinced that Ana was the right woman for an actor destined for success. But, Antonio says, "The nightlife in Madrid was mine, mine truthfully. Mine until I met Ana. She happened at at the right moment that my body was asking me to abandon the nightlife, the drinking and the whores."

Ana felt the sting of the criticism. "When somebody so well-liked with such potential for fascination on the rest decides to get married, it is incomprehensible. Some prefer to think it has not happened, that it could not be true. They therefore searched for complicated explanations that justified the wedding. I have waited two years and a half to become accustomed to the idea that it doesn't matter that I don't seem to them the right person. In reality, the right woman does not exist for somebody so desired."

Ana and Antonio separated in April of 1995 after 7 years of marriage. The marriage ended in divorce in 1996, a short time before he married his second wife, Melanie Griffith.

Ana Leza in Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios.