Puss In Boots returns!

He’s worn “The Mask of Zorro” and narrated the life of “Evita,” but nearly 15 years after redefining the term “crossover” with his transition from Spanish cinema to Hollywood, actor Antonio Banderas is taking on the role of a cat.

But fans awaiting the May 18 release of “Shrek the Third” know Banderas’ precocious pussycat is not your typical feline. Reprising his character as Puss In Boots, who was first introduced in the billion-dollar grossing “Shrek 2,” Banderas joins an all-star cast including Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy to tell the latest tale.

This time around, a death in Princess Fiona’s (Diaz) family forces Shrek (Myers), her green ogre husband, to leave the land of Far Far Away to find a suitable royal heir while Puss and Donkey (Murphy) hold down the fort.

Banderas said he is fond of his character because it gives him the chance to laugh at himself.

“It’s like Puss never had the opportunity to look at himself in the mirror,” he said at a press junket at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Monday. “He thinks that he’s six feet tall. If he looks at himself in the mirror one day, he’s going to have a psychological problem.”

Footage shot of the actors while they record their vocals actually influences what audiences see.

“The people who do all the animation ask for [the footage] because they want to imitate our body language,” he said. “The first time you go see [the film] in the movie theater you see a cat behaving like yourself. It’s freaky.”

While watching himself in the “Shrek” films may seem odd to Banderas, his character has been embraced by audiences. That he was asked to play the role in the first place was surprising, he said.

“I arrived at this country 17 years ago without speaking the language,” he said. “The fact that they called me just to use my voice is unbelievable.”

Despite several “Shrek” projects in the works, including two more films and an ABC Christmas special, “Bordertown” with Jennifer Lopez and “Homeland Security” with Meg Ryan, Banderas insists he is not career obsessed.

“I see many actors, whom I respect very much, who are too worried about their [careers],” he said. “They’re offered things that they would love to do but can’t [because] it would affect the perception people have of them. So they reject [the roles] in order to preserve the career. I always saw that as an act of professional narcissism.”

Banderas’ point of view is not limited to that of a man solely in front of the camera. His upcoming project “Summer Rain” gave him the chance to employ his vision from the director’s chair.

“When you are the director, you have to tell people, ‘This is the way I see the world, this is the way I see relationships and events,’ and I am not totally caught by realism,” he said. “I love the poetic side of movies. It’s something that we lost a long, long time ago.”

Greg Linch also contributed to this article.

Nick Maslow may be contacted at n.maslow@umiami.edu.