Get the real answers on Antonio Banderas' newest movie
For the past year and a half, Dancing with the Stars has given us an excuse for watching ballroom dancing on TV. But now, Antonio Banderas will make you go to the theaters with his latest film Take the Lead, directed by Liz Friedlander.
Antonio portrays Pierre Dulaine, the real life dance coach who tried to make a difference in the inner city schools of New York. In his spare time, Pierre began a dance class for children who would normally not have the opportunity to learn it.
In Take the Lead, Antonio teaches high school kids the proper way to 'get down.' The majority of the cast were newcomers, including America's Next Top Model runner-up, Yaya DaCosta, who admitted she was nervous jumping into her first film role. "Yeah I was. I guess I still am on another level. I was nervous the first day on set and then I get over it and now I'm nervous all over again."
Yaya and Rob Brown are the two lead kids; Rob plays a juvenile delinquent who's gotten hooked up with the wrong crowd. After his brother was killed in a gang war, he started hanging out with those guys. Rob last was seen in Coach Carter, playing opposite Sam Jackson; he was looking for another good solid script. He found it in Take the Lead, even without any dancing skills. "I didn't dance that much; I wasn't opposed to dance at all. I just looked at it like, 'dance;' I just learned how to do it and that was that. The dance wasn't a negative about the script. I just said, 'Ok, fine.' The script and the cast and the producers - I just wanted to be in the film."
Both of them mentioned having Antonio on set; Rob signed on to the movie for the chance to work with the former Zorro. "I just soaked up as much as I could when I was around him; I was on set everyday whether I was working or not. He's a pro and he's dead serious about his work. I didn't have a Q & A with him, but he led by example and I tried to follow."
Antonio had the same reaction about the real Pierre on set; even though Pierre was very hands-off, Antonio was happy to have his support. "Basically, I had two long conversations with him. And before, I went over to watch him because he didn't actually teach me how to dance, there was somebody else; there were two choreographers there, he was teaching the kids. What I would do is go to his class, maybe 45, 60 minutes before I had to start dancing; I would just sit on the floor and watch him interacting with the kids. That's what I wanted to take away and depict; and it was very interesting how he moves around, talks to the kids, never aggressive. Then some of the lines that he put in the movie - one of them he said, I went to Liz and said 'you should put this in the movie.' It's a scene that I'm teaching Yaya and Rob to dance aside from the rest of the people; he said 'You have to allow him to lead; he proposes the step, you accept the step, and then you execute the step. It's something that's done between you and me.' But he's amazing and a real gentleman."
Liz actually mentioned getting some tips from Pierre about certain lines she was concerned about. "Sometimes when I was trying to illustrate a point in dance, I was racking my brain cause I knew a line had to be re-written and I was up all night, and then I would see him getting coffee in the morning. I would ask him 'How would you say...' and he would say 'Two bodies moving as one.' Something that's so - I should have come to him sooner. But he was great for that stuff, and more than anything I just spent a lot of time watching him and seeing how he gets people over their trepidation of ballroom dancing and how he gets results."
We also had the opportunity to speak to the real Pierre Dulaine; he talked about having this movie made about him. "I don't know so many words to say other than incredible, incredible, incredible; it really is fantastic. I'm thrilled because I think it was a wonderful fit choosing Antonio."
There are a few scenes in this movie that will blow your mind; one of them is the opening sequence. The way it's shot and edited brings you right into the story; the music is pumping, fast motion, fast editing, great camera angles. Liz used her background as a former music video editor to put that together. "I think I wanted to show these two separate groups of people, who they will all be judged - because that's what human nature is - you see someone and you immediately try to think what kind of person they are - and then show how they're doing the same things. They're getting their shoes ready; Pierre's polishing his paten-leather with a brush and Kurd is brushing his white tenni's with a toothbrush. But it's all the same thing, they all get dressed up, they all go out. And it's all to accentuate the similarities and set up the worlds that must collide in this movie."
Coming from the world of music videos, this was Liz's first time directing a feature film. However, both Yaya and Rob said they would have never been able to tell. Of course, this being Yaya's first as well, the two really connected. "Every once in a while when I'd get stressed out and it was nice because it was a lot of people's first movie. We were all driven by passion for this work, for this particular story and by this great energy that we'd built living with each other and working together. In no way could you tell if you walked on set that this was her first movie; she was so professional, she knew what she wanted and she let us know. She was also open, of course, to questions and little changes here and there if we didn't feel comfortable saying something, if it was old slang; she was great!"
Rob found it comforting as well to have such an open minded director. "She's smart and thorough and clear; none of the adjustments were superfluous, real relevant adjustments she gave. I didn't notice the music thing at all until I saw the film and then that definitely influenced how it came out; it's cut real fresh."
Alfre Woodard also stars as the school principal; she was thrilled to join the cast. But, it was working with Antonio that was a real treat for her. "He's probably one of the most generous [men] I've ever encountered; he's generous with his energy, his smile, his touch. He's a very attentive person to everybody, whether it's a PA or a sound person."
Take the Lead is really a story about overcoming your fears and living your life. What makes this film so likable is the constant story line; you're never bored. And to top it off, the music keeps you jumping throughout. The dance moves, especially the final dance scene, are eye-popping and jaw-dropping. And as far as I can tell, Antonio Banderas can still heat up the big screen. Believe me, you will not be disappointed. Take the Lead moves into theaters April 7th; it's rated PG-13.