In an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, Banderas told The Associated Press that drawing on personal experience has always helped him, but Almodóvar stressed that he especially embrace it for the performance.
"I had a heart attack two and a half years ago and it changed me in certain ways, yeah, and Pedro detected that, and he saw it, and he says, 'you know, don't hide this thing,'" he said. Banderas says he understood the famed Spanish director's message.
"I knew exactly what he was talking about, because after you have a heart attack you receive a lot of information on what life is all about that is very difficult to describe in words, but it just set up a new way of understanding life itself," Banderas said.
The 2017 cardiac event significantly changed his life, the 59-year-old said. Family and friends became more important. "You become more raw," he said. "You eliminate things you thought were important in your life, you erase them out of your life."
He was also able to determine the parts of his career that were essential. "I would say my passion for acting and for telling stories as it was at the beginning ... that came back," he said. His new look on life culminated with getting the top acting honor for "Pain and Glory" at Cannes in May.
"It was very beautiful, because I've been an eternal nominee. I never got to get up there," Banderas said. In "Pain and Glory," Banderas plays a film director with physical difficulties and a lifetime of regret. Parts of the story directly reflect Almodóvar's life, forcing the actor to tread carefully with his approach.
"Obviously, it's very weird to have a person that you are performing that is actually directing the movie at the same time. So, the amount of information that I had from him was direct and was not always information that was realized. It was information that was many times emotional," he said.
As for his health, Banderas says he's happy to feel better than he has in years. "I'm doing exactly what they told to me," Banderas said. "I did something really stupid for many years of my life. I was a smoker, and the last cigarette I smoked was the night before my heart attack."
"Pain and Glory" will be released Oct. 4 in the United States.