Antonio Banderas’ Stepdaughter Dakota Johnson Still Calls Him ‘Papi’ despite His Split with Her Mom

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At 35, inexperienced Antonio Banderas suddenly became the father of 6-year-old and 10-year-old kids. Years have passed, and he lives an entirely different life, but he is still a part of their family.

Movie star Antonio Banderas married a woman with two young children and expressed that it was nerve-wracking to marry into a wholesome family of three while being inexperienced.

Spanish actor Antonio Banderas and actress Melanie Griffith met while still married to other people. Griffith was still married to actor Don Johnson whom she wed twice, but they officially separated in 1994.

Actor Antonio Banderas and actress Melanie Griffith pose at The Antonio Banderas’ Blue Seduction for Women fragrance launch at Cedar Lake on July 10, 2008 in New York City ┃Source: Getty Images

She later fell for Banderas, who happened to be her co-star at the time in the 1995 rom-com, “Two Much.” He was still technically married to his first wife, actress Ana Leza. However, the pair were going through a separation then.

A month after Banderas and Griffith finalized their divorces, they walked down the aisle again in an intimate ceremony on May 14, 1996, in London.

When asked what attracted him to the New York native, “The Legend of Zorro” star told AARP in November 2011 that he had “admired Melanie long before I met her.”


Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith during 12th Carousel of Hope Ball at Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California ┃Source: Getty Images

Banderas recalled the first time he saw Griffith in the 1988 movie, “Working Girl,” and was mesmerized by her beauty, “Wow, she’s so beautiful, so special,” he said. He later spotted her at the Oscar Awards on the red carpet but had forgotten her name:

“Pedro Almodovar said, ‘It’s Melanie Griffith, you idiot! She’s nominated for an Academy Award tonight!’ Six years after that, we’re married!”

When asked how they went from their working relationship to being romantically involved while starring in “Two Much,” Banderas revealed they were both “unhappy” in their marriages.

“Things don’t work out sometimes, and that’s the way it goes. But we recognized that we were unhappy. I saw her with her kids, and she was so beautiful as a mom,” said the Spain native.

Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith during the 55th Cannes film festival: Stairs of “Femme Fatale” on May 25, 2002 in Cannes, France ┃Source: Getty Images

Banderas explained that it is typical for co-stars to develop a connection while working together and that most of the time, after filming, everyone cuts ties, but the same cannot be said about him and Griffith.

They kept in touch frequently until they finally admitted they had feelings for each other. Something he noted “was not easy” to do. When the “Frida” star married the Golden Globe Award winner, she had two young children from her previous marriages.

Griffith had her first child, son Alexander, with actor Steven Bauer whom she wed in 1981 and divorced in 1989 following five years of marriage. She welcomed her eldest daughter Dakota with Johnson, whom she was married to between 1976-1976 and 1989-1996.

Banderas Became an ‘Inexperienced’ Stepdad to Griffith’s Kids
Asked how he tried to blend into the marriage being a stepfather to Griffin’s son and daughter, Banderas admitted that it was difficult because he had to reassure the kids that he was there to stay:

“It was hard because the kids had to accept me, and I was totally inexperienced. Suddenly, I had a 6-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy. But as soon as the kids knew I was there to stay, they were fine. They needed solid ground in which they could grow.”

Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith and children during The 61st Annual Golden Globe Awards – Arrivals at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California | Source: Getty Images

Once he came to that realization, the “Spy Kids” star began “establishing my relationship, giving them security, little by little doing the father thing.”

When asked how long it took to put the children’s minds at ease, Banderas divulged “it took less than a year” for his stepchildren “to realize that I was not temporary.”

Soon, his daughter Stella was born, which became overwhelming because he was still trying to get Alexander and Dakota to warm up to him.

Banderas Had a Huge Influence on His Stepdaughter’s Career
Banderas’ hard work bonding with his stepkids yielded positive results as he became instrumental in Dakota’s acting career. The “Fifty Shades of Grey” star first had her acting stint in her stepfather’s directorial debut, “Crazy in Alabama” in 1999, alongside her mother. Dakota played Sondra in the film.

As a young child, she spent time with Banderas on set and recalled bringing pop singer Madonna an Easter basket while filming “Evita” in Budapest in 1996.

Her stepdad also cherishes such memories, and he once gushed:” She’s my daughter. I love her. I’ve been with her on my shoulders, traveling all around the world.”

Banderas also revealed Dakota’s sweet nickname for him while growing up, which is a combination of the word “daddy” in his native language and his name:

“Dakota called me Paponio, which is a mixture between papa, which is ‘daddy’ in Spanish, and Antonio. I’m her Antonio papa, so Paponio.”

Sadly, Banderas and Dakota’s mom filed for divorce in June 2014 following 18 years of marriage and released a joint statement that read:

“We have thoughtfully and consensually decided to finalize our almost twenty years marriage in a loving and friendly manner honoring and respecting each other, our family and friends, and the beautiful time we have spent together – Melanie & Antonio.”

The former couple had an amicable separation, and Griffith cited irreconcilable differences as the reason why she and Banderas parted ways.

Dakota Still Maintains a Loving Relationship with Her Stepfather
Many years later, her daughter presented Banderas with the Best Actor Award at the 2019 Hollywood Film Awards in a touching speech. Dakota got emotional when lovingly talking about her stepfather while calling him by her childhood nickname:

“I come from a family of many a marriage, and I got very lucky. I got a bonus dad who I realized that, over time, is actually one of the most influential people in my whole life.”

The Texas native said Banderas brightened their lives and shared his sense of “creativity and culture” with them, adding he brought “one remarkably magical little sister into our family.”

Chocking up, Dakota stated: “My stepfather! Antonio Banderas burst into our lives. He was so vibrant and fun and funny, and his English was abstract, and we found it amazing.” She said he “loved” her mom and her and her siblings so much that it changed their “lives forever.”

In his acceptance speech, Banderas dedicated the award to” two people” he loved, including Dakota, saying it was because she had always called him “Papi” and still does, which he loves. Following the event, the devoted stepdad told E! News Online that he “had no idea” that his stepchild would be honoring him with such a heart-warming speech:

“It was all a surprise. I knew that she was going to give the speech, but I had no idea whatsoever how she was going to do her speech. She didn’t tell me anything.”

The proud father said it brought back all those memories he created with his blended family and that “it was a confirmation” that the time he spent with Griffith was not only about them but “about the family. They were all worth it.”

In February 2015, Banderas was promoting his animated film “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water,” which was to be released the same weekend as Dakota’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie, and mentioned what a stellar actress she was.

He emphasized that there was “no competition” between him and his stepdaughter because their audiences differed for the films. “I wish Dakota the best, not only because of this movie,” but because he and the rest of the family, including Dakota’s biological father, knew she was an excellent performer.

Banderas added that Dakota would have a thriving career because she is versatile in portraying different characters. She nails comedy, which was evident in the TV series “Ben & Kate,” and drama too, which showed in the movie, he said. He noted that it was a window of “opportunity” for Dakota and that he knew she would grab it with both hands and run with it.