Antonio Banderas' sword fighting scenes in "The Mask of Zorro" were often painfully real.

"If you are fighting with real swords for one hour in the morning, you're feeling great and focused," he said. "After 14 hours working, you start being a little less focused. I think I was bleeding practically every day we did sword fights."The Spanish-born Banderas thinks it's about time that a Spaniard played the hero who fights oppression in Spanish-ruled Old California.

The role "has never been acted or performed by a Spanish guy," he told the Los Angeles Times Saturday.

The role could cement Banderas' image as a movie heartthrob, but the 37-year-old takes his sex symbol status lightly. "It doesn't bother me," he said, "and it doesn't make me feel like a superhero.



Birthdays: For Sunday, July 12

Comedian Milton Berle 90

Artist Andrew Wyeth 81

Pianist Van Cliburn 64

Comedian Bill Cosby 61

Fitness guru Richard Simmons 50

Singer Sandi Patti 42

Actress Mel Harris 41

Skater Kristi Yamaguchi 27