Despite all of the glitz and glamor of Hollywood, many celebrities struggle with difficult home lives. This was definitely true for Melanie Griffith. In 1995, the actress was a single mother to two children. She was suffering from substance abuse and the aftermath of three divorces. Then she met Antonio Banderas while they starred in the film called Two Much. They married a year later in 1996. Although the couple split in 2015, Banderas became an irreplaceable, positive influence in her children’s lives, namely Fifty Shades of Gray star Dakota Johnson.
Antonio Banderas Becomes the “Philosophical” Parent
Griffith’s first husband was Don Johnson 1976. As easily guessed by his name, he is Dakota’s father. In 1981, she married actor and producer Steven Bauer, with whom she had a son, Alexander Griffith Bauer. They divorced in 1989, and that same year, Griffith reconnected with Johnson and remarried him. They stayed together for seven years before divorcing again, during which, Dakota was born. Around the same year of the divorce, Griffith married Banderas.
Dakota was five when Banderas became her stepfather. She already had a tumultuous upbringing with both of her parents abusing alcohol and drugs. Additionally, she struggled with the oppressive fame of her family, referring to herself as “a wild feral little child.” She started therapy to help her in teens, explaining, “My parents had some problems of their own that put me in a position of having to deal with very grown-up stuff at a very young age. I needed some help with that, therapy-wise.” 
When Banderas joined the family, Dakota and Alexander were wary of him at first. But he soon became the “the understanding, philosophical” parent while Griffith was the self-professed disciplinarian. She explained in an interview in 2011 that he was there for the kids and they would talk about things they wouldn’t talk to her about. 
Read: Denzel Washington Chose ‘Very Tough’ Marriage despite the Temptations That Were around Him
They Are Still Family
Despite the divorce in 2015, Antonio Banderas still considers Griffith his best friend. “Melanie is not my wife anymore, but I think she is my best friend,” the actor said. “I love her and will love her until the day I die. She’s my family.” They are also the parents of Stella Banderas, who her father described her as a “natural writer. She was reading books since she was very little and she loved to be behind the camera and all the attention. If you had a second life I would love to just step in there. Maybe my daughter is just my second life.”
He also stayed close with his stepdaughter Dakota Johnson and his stepson Alexander Bauer Griffith. “I was there because I love their mother and I am totally taken with their mother and they were the most important part of what she came with,” Banderas said. “Very soon they understood that. They called me Paponio, a mixture between Papa and Antonio.” 
Dakota Johnson Honors Her Ex Stepdad At Award Ceremony
In 2019, Johnson presented Banderas with the Hollywood Actor Award at the Hollywood Film Awards in Los Angeles. Onstage, she gave a moving speech about her relationship with her now ex stepdad.
“When I was six years old, my mother married a man who brought an unbelievably bright light and a whole new world of creativity and culture — and one remarkably magical little sister [Stella Banderas] into our family,” Johnson said.
“My stepfather Antonio Banderas burst into our lives. He was so vibrant and so fun and so funny, and his English was abstract. We found it absolutely amazing. He loved my mother and my siblings and I so fiercely, and so big and so loud that it would change all of our lives forever. Antonio taught me about true passion and discipline.”
Banderas said afterward that he was touched that she decided to attend the award ceremony with him.
“It was very, very beautiful, very emotional to hear that all of those years, I still mean [so much] to her,” Banderas said. “So it was very, very special.” 
Although he knew she was giving a speech, she didn’t tell him the details beforehand. He explained the moment felt like a confirmation not just of his marriage with Melanie but about the family he had with her. “They were worth it all.” 
- “Foul-mouthed wild-child Dakota Johnson could finally be the woman to make Chris Martin cool.” The Sun. Grant Rollings. January 16, 2018
- “Melanie Griffith’s Point of View.” AARP. Meg Grant. November 2011
- “Dakota Johnson Says Stepdad Antonio Banderas Changed Her Family ‘Forever’ with His Love.” People. Alex Cramer. November 4, 2019
- “Antonio Banderas Gushes Over Former Stepdaughter Dakota Johnson: ‘I Love Her’.” US Magazine. Riley Cardoza. January 3, 2020
- “Why Dakota Johnson Is So Special to Former Stepdad Antonio Banderas.” ENews. Spencer Lubitz, Kelli Boyle. January 3, 2020