January sees the release of heart-wrenching Spanish drama BIUTIFUL – released January 28th- featuring a stunning lead performance from Javier Bardem, which is garnishing a fair amount of Oscar buzz. Of course Bardem is far from the only Latin American leading man to have taken the world by storm. We look down the best actors of Latin decent who light up cinema screens all over the world.
Banderas started his career appearing in a series films for cult flamboyant Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar during the 1980s, gaining international acclaim for his controversial role as a mental patient in Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, but it was as an action star that he really made his name in America, taking the lead in Desperado and The Mask of Zorro in the mid 90s. Yet his most popular turn has probably been as the voice of Puss In Boots from the Shrek films, with a spin-off solo film due next Christmas.
Despite having appeared in dubious English language fare such the straight to video Dirty Dancing sequel and Vampires: Los Muertos alongside Jon Bon Jovi, it was appearing with his childhood friend Gael Garcia Bernal in the Mexican coming of age comedy Y Tu Mama Tambien that proved to be his breakthrough role. He has since appeared in acclaimed films such as the Oscar winning Milk and Harmony Korrine’s Mister Lonely and recently reunited with Bernal for Rudo Y Cursi.
Benicio Del Toro
Del Toro holds the distinction for being the youngest actor to play a Bond villain, in 1989’s Licence to Kill, but it would not be to the late 90s that he really made a name for himself with a string of fantastic performances in films such as Fear And Loathing in Las Vegas, Traffic, The Way of the Gun and Snatch. His defining role however has gone to be his stunning turn as Che Guevara, in Steven Soderberg’s epic two-part biography of the revolutionary.
Venezuelan born Ramirez has already appeared in supporting parts in big budget Hollywood fare including Tony Scott’s Domino, Vantage Point and The Bourne Ultimatum, but it was his incredible multi-lingual turn as the eponymous terrorist in Olivier Assayas’ five hour biography Carlos that has really got him turning heads. He now set to play notorious Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar in the adaptation of the non-fiction bestseller Killing Pablo, alongside Christian Bale.
Gael Garcia Bernal
One of the most recognisable faces of the Mexican New Wave at the turn of the century, Bernal appeared in many Latin American modern classics, including Y Tu Mama Tambien alongside the aforementioned Diego Luna, Amores Perros and as a young Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries. He has since started in films in Hollywood and beyond, produced work for Amensty International and even appeared in Nike’s 2010 World Cup advert.
Trejo is a former amateur boxer and convict who made a name for himself playing grizzled henchmen and anti-heroes in countless films as diverse as Heat, Con Air, Anchorman, Halloween, From Dusk Till Dawn and Spy Kids. Instantly recognisable, it was only last year that he was pushed to the forefront by fellow Mexican-American Robert Rodriguez, playing the title character in Machete, which was the 66 year old’s first ever (and much deserved) starring role.
Bardem had already had a very successful career in Spanish cinema, appearing in international successes such as Jamon, Jamon and the Oscar nominated Before Nigh Falls, but it was his chilling turn as psychopathic hitman Anton Chigurh in the Coen Brother’s No Country For Old Men, which propelled him onto the Hollywood A-List and won himself a Best Supporting Actor at the same time. However, it his latest film Biutiful is which he plays a single father desperately trying to look after his two children against the poverty of the Barcelona underworld, that many are calling his best performance ever and may even bag him the Best Leading Actor statue.
Biutiful is released on 28th January 2010