In a recent interview with The Independent, Antonio Banderas revealed that he was almost killed in a motorcycle accident as a teenager but survived thanks to someone he says was a drag queen. But was she?
In 1976, the front wheel of Banderas’ motorbike “went into a ditch and boom!” He said, “I hit a car and my head hit the tank. Bam!” There, writer Patrick Smith describes Banderas conjuring up “an imaginary wig” and “an imaginary dress” to describe his savior, who Banderas says “was working a corner for clients, came from nowhere, got in the middle of the road, and stopped a car to take me to hospital.” The accident even left him with a scar on his leg. “The kick stand got me here,” he continued. “Blood everywhere. You could see the bone.”
Smith assumes that Banderas’ savior is a drag queen, thanks to the wig and dress. But a femme-presenting queer person “working a corner for clients” sounds much more like a trans sex worker than what we think of as a drag queen — although in 1976, that distinction didn’t exist. It’s not surprising that a mainstream publication like The Independent decided to go with the sensationalizing first line “Antonio Banderas owes his life to a drag queen” rather than speculating that Banderas may have had his life saved by a trans sex worker whose presentation wasn’t a performance, but possibly an expression of her gender and, in the context of “working a corner,” a tool for survival.
Aside from that potentially problematic anecdote, Banderas spoke about his new role in Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory, in which he plays a gay filmmaker. It’s far from Banderas’ first queer role — he’s played queer roles in Philadelphia, Almodóvar’s Law of Desire, and (if you’re staying true to Anne Rice’s text) Interview with a Vampire — and is conflicted about the question of queer representation in film. “I’ve played gay characters for a long time and have always tried to be very respectful to the gay community,” he explained. “I’m an actor. I just play the character and try to believe them completely when I’m doing them. I try not to perform them; I try to live them. But, you know, I’m not Zorro, either. I have never been heroic. I run away!”