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John Leguizamo

John Leguizamo

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Also Known As: John Alberto Leguizamo, Johnny Leggs Died:
Born: July 22, 1964 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Colombia Profession: actor, comedian, playwright, producer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Actor, comedian, writer and producer John Leguizamo began his career on the experimental theater stages of New York's East Village, where his electrifying performances earned critical raves in one-man shows like "Mambo Mouth" and "Spic-o-Rama." Leguizamo's stage creations were based on his childhood experiences growing up in a poor Columbian immigrant family in Queens, and his strong association with Latino culture meant he was often cast in rather flat, peripheral Latino character parts as gangsters and drug dealers on film. But the multi-talented and tireless performer also made great leaps towards the acceptance of Latino actors in a wider variety of roles, including the hilarious drag queen road comedy "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar" (1995), which helped open the doors for bigger and better jobs. He went on to play Tybalt in Baz Luhrman's revisionist take of "William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet" (1996) and received Tony Award nominations for his one-man show "Freak: A Semi-Demi-Quasi-Autobiographical Comedy" (1997). After a solid turn in Spike Lee's "Summer of Sam" (1999), he delivered a comic spin on height-challenged artist Toulouse-Lautrec in "Moulin Rouge!" (2001)....

Actor, comedian, writer and producer John Leguizamo began his career on the experimental theater stages of New York's East Village, where his electrifying performances earned critical raves in one-man shows like "Mambo Mouth" and "Spic-o-Rama." Leguizamo's stage creations were based on his childhood experiences growing up in a poor Columbian immigrant family in Queens, and his strong association with Latino culture meant he was often cast in rather flat, peripheral Latino character parts as gangsters and drug dealers on film. But the multi-talented and tireless performer also made great leaps towards the acceptance of Latino actors in a wider variety of roles, including the hilarious drag queen road comedy "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar" (1995), which helped open the doors for bigger and better jobs. He went on to play Tybalt in Baz Luhrman's revisionist take of "William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet" (1996) and received Tony Award nominations for his one-man show "Freak: A Semi-Demi-Quasi-Autobiographical Comedy" (1997). After a solid turn in Spike Lee's "Summer of Sam" (1999), he delivered a comic spin on height-challenged artist Toulouse-Lautrec in "Moulin Rouge!" (2001). Leguizamo voiced Sid the Sloth for "Ice Age" (2002) and its 2009 sequel, played Dr. Victor Clemente on "ER" (1994-2009), joined the Broadway revival of David Mamet's "American Buffalo" (2008), and had a supporting role in "The Lincoln Lawyer" (2011). After decades of hard work, Leguizamo enjoyed an expanding palette of choices heretofore unavailable to Latino actors while also playing a wider array of non-ethnic roles.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Undefeated (2003) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Nest, The (2015)
2.
 Stealing Cars (2015)
3.
 American Ultra (2015)
4.
 Chef (2014)
5.
 Banana Republic (2014)
8.
 Ride Along (2014)
10.
 Counselor, The (2013)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1969:
Moved to New York from Colombia with family at age four
:
Moved to Colombia and back to New York twice with younger brother before age nine
:
Grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens, NY
:
Arrested while in high school for truancy and then for commandeering the public address system of a subway train with a friend
:
Began writing comedy material in high school, trying it out on classmates
:
While attending NYU, discovered by casting director Bonnie Timmerman who saw him in the award-winning student film "Five Out of Six"
:
Was a member of the New York improvisational performance group First Amendment
:
Played NYC comedy clubs in mid-1980s; worked also as comedy duo with Carolyn McDermott
1984:
Cast as an extra in the music video for Madonna's "Borderline"
1984:
Feature acting debut, in Paul Morrissey's "Mixed Blood," a French-produced crime comedy shot on NYC's Lower East Side
1984:
Played the recurring role of vengeful drug boss Orlando Calderone on three episodes of "Miami Vice" (NBC)
1985:
First substantial film role, "Gentile Alouette," a Chilean-French co-production starring Geraldine Chaplin (shelved until 1990)
1989:
First notable film credit, Brian De Palma's "Casualties of War"
1989:
Appeared in stage production "Parting Gestures" with the Intar Hispanic American Arts Center
1989:
Wrote and starred in the one-man show "Mambo Mouth"; later taped and broadcast as an installment of the "HBO Comedy Hour"
1991:
Appeared in "Hangin' With the Homeboys," directed by Joseph Vasquez
1991:
Played the thug who shoots Harrison Ford in "Regarding Henry"
1992:
Created the one-man show "Spic-o-Rama: A Dysfunctional Comedy"; later taped and broadcast as an installment of the "HBO Comedy Hour"
1993:
Portrayed Benny Blanco 'from the Bronx' in De Palma's "Carlito's Way"
1993:
Starred in "Super Mario Bros." as Luigi opposite Bob Hoskins' Mario
1995:
Created (also wrote and starred) "House of Buggin'" (Fox), a Latino-oriented sketch comedy show
1995:
Breakthrough lead performance as a touchingly funny drag queen opposite Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes in "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar"
1996:
Formed Lower East Side Prods. (with screenwriter David Bar Katz); also signed two-year, first-look deal with New Line Cinema
1996:
Portrayed Tybalt, a macho Latin gangster in Baz Lurhmann's "William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet"
1997:
Co-produced "The Pest" with writing partner Katz, revisiting a variety of characters he had created in the past
1997:
Premiered one-person show "Freak: A Semi-Demi-Quasi-Autobiographical Comedy"; opened on Broadway in 1998; received Tony Award nominations for Best Play and Best Actor
1998:
Starred in HBO adaptation of "Freak," directed by Spike Lee; garnered Emmy Award for performance
1999:
Executive produced "Joe the King," written and directed by Frank Whaley; also had a small role in film
1999:
Co-starred in Spike Lee's "Summer of Sam"
2001:
Cast as Toulouse-Lautrec in Baz Luhrmann's big screen musical "Moulin Rouge!"
2001:
Appeared on stage in one-person show "John Leguizamo LIVE"; opened on Broadway as "Sexaholix"; also aired on HBO
2001:
Executive produced "Pinero," a biopic of the poet-playwright Miguel Pinero
2002:
Voiced Sid the sloth for the animated feature "Ice Age"
2002:
Made directorial debut with HBO production "Infamous"; also starred as a boxer who escapes his impoverished roots through fame
2003:
Co-starred in "Spun"; premiered at Cinevegas Film Festival
2005:
Cast in George A. Romero's "Land of the Dead," a thriller where the living dead have taken over the world
2005:
Joined the cast of the NBC medical drama "ER" playing Dr. Victor Clemente
2006:
Published memoir, <i>Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends: My Life</i>
2007:
Cast in the Spike TV eight part series "The Kill Point"
2007:
Had a supporting role in the Mike Newell adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera"
2008:
Co-starred in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Happening"
2008:
Joined a Broadway revival of David Mamet's "American Buffalo"
2009:
Began tour of "John Leguizamo Live!" at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT
2009:
Again voiced Sid the sloth in the animated sequel "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs"
2011:
Landed a supporting role in "The Lincoln Lawyer"
2011:
Performed the one-man show "Ghetto Klown" on Broadway
2012:
Acted in the feature adaptation of "One for the Money," based on Janet Evanovich¿s novel and starring Katherine Heigl as bounty hunter Stephanie Plum
2012:
Reprised voice role of Sid the sloth in "Ice Age: Continental Drift"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Murry Bergtraum High school: New York , New York -
New York University: New York , New York -
Sylvia Leigh's Showcase Theater: New York , New York -
Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute: New York , New York -
HB Studio: New York , New York -

Notes

Leguizamo is named after 1950s B-movie actor John Saxon.

During the 1997-98 theater season, his one-person show "Freak" become one of the few certifiable hits. As star and writer, Leguizamo earned around $50,000 per week, making him one of--if not the--highest paid performer on Broadway for that time period. (Source: Daily News, July 7, 1998)

"In his one-man shows, John Leguizamo is the Charles Dickens of the Latino experience in urban America" --From "John Leguizamo: He's Got Legz" by Douglas Carter Beane in Interview, September 1995.

"I am Hispanic and an artist. They are both of profound importance to me. But until now, very few people have asked my opinion about what they mean. I was certainly both before "Mambo Mouth," and its existence does not suddenly make me a Latin oracle. Yet all of a sudden my opinion seems to matter. In the Age of Marketing, John Leguizamo has achieved shelf life. For how long may even be up to me. What a concept." --John Leguizamo to The New York Times, July 14, 1991.

"Spanish people in most American films and on television are on the outside: they add spice to the story, but they are never what it is about. Today, as an actor, I could make a living in the Spicorama of television and film playing the drug pusher/terrorist/immigrant/gigolo. In fact I have played the type." --Leguizamo in The New York Times, July 14, 1991.

"I see the new Latin artist as a pioneer opening up doors for others to follow. And when they don't open, we crowbar our way in. ... We are taking our culture and suturing it to America. Like gum on the bottom of a shoe, we are not going to disappear. Unlike other peoples who totally assimilated, we are more interested in co-assimilation. ... America may not realize it yet but Latin prototypes are being created right now--and not just by me. It is these mambo kings and salsa queens, Aztec lords and Inca princesses, every Hernandez and Fernandez, whom this country will one day come to understand and respect." --Leguizamo in The New York Times, July 14, 1991.

From an interview with Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo promoting "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar" in the New York Post (early September 1995):

Would you date yourself in drag?

SWAYZE: "I wouldn't sleep with me--I'm not my type--but I know a helluva lot of guys who would."

SNIPES: "Overall I think I had the best physique but John was a sweet-looking guy! He was the butter."

LEGUIZAMO: "I found the woman I love--and it's me. Hands down, I was the finest! I'll have problems if I ever go to jail."

"I had a lot of idols, and people that I always turned to, when I'm depressed or the business gets me down, or you just feel like you have nothing else to say. Then you turn on a Richard Pryor album, and you go, 'Oh, my God, this is exactly why I did this! This is the thing that I love!' He was a big inspiration, and Lily Tomlin and Jonathan Winters too. Those are my three big inspirations, because all three were trying to tell personal stories, especially Richard Pryor. I mean, he did an expose on himself and that just grabbed me. He's amazing." --John Leguizamo quoted in Venice, February 1997.

"I only feel the pressure about my so-called 'role modelness' from Latin wannabe intelligentsia, the guardians of what Hispanics are supposed to say and do. Like rabbis protecting the Talmud. But I just gotta follow the beat of my drum. I do what makes me feel and makes me laugh 'cause I can't do anything else. I know Latin people are proud of me regardless, 'cause I get a lot of fan mail inviting me to their himes for dinner unless it's a set up and they're planning to off me." --Leguizamo to Los Angeles Times, May 31, 1998.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Carolyn McDermott. Comedian. Met in 1986.
companion:
Samantha Mathis. Actor. Co-starred in "Super Mario Bros".
wife:
Yelba Matamoros. Actor. Born c. 1962; met in acting workshop in 1991; eloped in September 1994; Leguizamo filed for divorce in November 1996.
companion:
Justine Maurer. Estate planner, economist. Dating from 1997; married on June 28, 2003 in upstate New York.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Alberto Leguizamo. Realtor, waiter. Divorced from Leguizamo's mother in 1978; Puerto Rican immigrant.
mother:
Luz Leguizamo. Divorced from Leguizamo's father in 1978; Colombian immigrant.
brother:
Sergio Leguizamo. Younger.
daughter:
Allegra Sky Leguizamo. Born on October 23, 1999; mother, Justine Maurer.
son:
Ryder Lee Leguizamo. Born on December 5, 2000; mother Justine Maurer.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Freak: A Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography" Riverhead

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