BY DONNA FREYDKIN
The years have been kind to Antonio Banderas. Just don't tell him that.
"No, no. I see pictures of myself from those days and I look like a yogurt," he says, laughing. "It's true. It's not so much how I look. It's how I feel. I'm 55. I have curiosity. There's no killing the engine that made me be an actor. I didn't kill the kid. The engine is still very alive."
And it drove him to star in "The 33," opening Friday, about the Chilean miners rescued after being trapped underground for 69 days. Banderas is their leader, known as Super Mario. He had followed the ongoing media coverage of the actual collapse in 2010, and when he got the script, couldn't fathom not doing it.
"It would be stupid for me to say no. It's a good character. The story was very emotional for many people, and for me too," says Banderas. "And it became a suspense movie with a happy ending."
Thankfully, Banderas doesn't freak out when he's stuck in small spaces.
"We shot in real mines. Even if you're not claustrophobic, it was miserable. We had a hard time. We had to understand the ordeal of these men, being cold, everybody got sick. Coughing, sick in the stomach, stuff like that," he says.
But the Spanish actor brushes off talk of any hardships. For him, the work is its own reward -- and none of it, he says, was planned. That's how he's wound up starring in projects as diverse as "Philadelphia," "Evita," "Shrek" and "Spy Kids."
"I don't like the word 'career.' It would have not allowed me to do the things that I wanted to do," says Banderas. "I resisted being put in a box. I have done practically every genre. I've done horror movies, musicals, comedies, animation. I directed. I did the theater."
He's the father of daughter Stella, from his marriage to Melanie Griffith. The little girl, who appeared in 1999's "Crazy in Alabama," which Banderas directed, is all grown up.
"She's now in college, actually. I feel proud of her. I would feel proud of her no matter what she does. She's a good human being," says Banderas. "I cannot believe that amount of time has passed."
And unlike her sister Dakota Johnson, Stella won't be entering the family business.
"I don't think so. One of them is, my stepdaughter. I don't think Stella is going to go there. She has seen the other side of this. The star of the Christmas tree shines, but it's cardboard paper in the back. She has seen the cardboard paper," he says.
For more on Banderas' stepdaughter Dakota, check out these photos.