skip navigation
Ruben Blades

Ruben Blades

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)

Recent DVDs

 
 

Ruben Blades - NOT AVAILABLE

Find what your looking for faster use the search field below to shop for titles.

SEARCH TCM.COM/SHOP


OR ... Click here to VOTE > for this person to be released on Home Video



Also Known As: Rubn Lades Bellido De Luna, Ruben Dario Blades Jr., R Blades Died:
Born: July 16, 1948 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Panama Profession: actor, composer, singer, music producer, screenwriter, mailroom clerk, Fania Records (former premiere Latin label), politician, lawyer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A self-styled renaissance man who has made a significant contribution to salsa with his socially conscious lyrics, Panamanian-born Ruben Blades has also enjoyed a successful career as a screen actor and, in his native country, founded the political party Papa Egora, running and placing third in the 1994 presidential election. After obtaining a law degree in Panama, he moved to the USA in 1974, staying temporarily with his exiled parents in Miami before moving to NYC where he was soon working with salseros Ray Barretto and Larry Harlow. A collaboration with trombonist and band leader Willie Colon followed, and their 1978 album "Siembra" became the best-selling salsa record in history. He branched into movies with the mediocre melodrama "The Last Fight" (1983), writing the title song as well as portraying a singer-turned-boxer vying for a championship. He also penned his first musical score for a film that year for "When Mountains Tremble". Blades gained widespread recognition in 1985 as co-writer and star of the independent "Crossover Dreams" (1985), exhibiting real screen presence as a New York salsa singer willing to do anything to break into the mainstream. He was also the subject of Robert Mugge's...

A self-styled renaissance man who has made a significant contribution to salsa with his socially conscious lyrics, Panamanian-born Ruben Blades has also enjoyed a successful career as a screen actor and, in his native country, founded the political party Papa Egora, running and placing third in the 1994 presidential election. After obtaining a law degree in Panama, he moved to the USA in 1974, staying temporarily with his exiled parents in Miami before moving to NYC where he was soon working with salseros Ray Barretto and Larry Harlow. A collaboration with trombonist and band leader Willie Colon followed, and their 1978 album "Siembra" became the best-selling salsa record in history. He branched into movies with the mediocre melodrama "The Last Fight" (1983), writing the title song as well as portraying a singer-turned-boxer vying for a championship. He also penned his first musical score for a film that year for "When Mountains Tremble".

Blades gained widespread recognition in 1985 as co-writer and star of the independent "Crossover Dreams" (1985), exhibiting real screen presence as a New York salsa singer willing to do anything to break into the mainstream. He was also the subject of Robert Mugge's fascinating music documentary "The Return of Ruben Blades", which debuted at that year's Denver Film Festival. After finding himself in two 1987 stinkers, "Critical Condition" (with Richard Pryor) and "Fatal Beauty" (with Whoopi Goldberg), Blades rebounded nicely with Robert Redford's "The Milagro Beanfield War" (1988), playing the modern-day New Mexico sheriff of the charming, fanciful fable. He wrote the song "Tu y Yo" for Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" (1989) and reteamed with Lee the following year as the hard-nosed bookie of "Mo' Better Blues". The banner year also saw him act in the "Chinatown" sequel "The Two Jakes" (directed by and starring Jack Nicholson), "The Lemmon Sisters" (starring Diane Keaton) and "Predator 2" (with Danny Glover and Gary Busey), in addition to scoring Sidney Lumet's "Q & A".

On the small screen, Blades has delivered impressive performances in a number of cable movies beginning with his turn as a Death Row inmate in HBO's "Dead Man Out", his first collaboration with Glover. Though "One Man's War" (HBO, 1991) gave him the opportunity to act with the venerable Anthony Hopkins, the well-intentioned script about repression in Paraguay failed to rise to the level of more compelling, similarly-themed films. He fared better as Pepita Abatino, the Sicilian born gigolo who groomed Joseph Baker for stardom, in that year's "The Josephine Baker Story" (HBO), garnering an Emmy nomination for his efforts, and earned praise (and a second Emmy nod) as a Mexican janitor who romances Christine Lahti in "Crazy From the Heart" (TNT, 1991). He also starred as Pastor Beruman whose wife is on the freeway with their two young children in "Miracle on I-880" (NBC, 1993), a routine dramatization of the 1989 Oakland earthquake.

"The Super" (1991) cast Blades opposite Joe Pesci as a crafty street hustler who gradually gets the slum landlord more attuned to the needs of his struggling tenants, and the erotic thriller "Color of Night" (1994), starring Bruce Willis, offered him as an abrasively funny police detective. Ever mindful of his onscreen image, he has stated that he tries to avoid stereotypical roles and looks for films that balance the Latino-as-bad-guy with a positive portrayal. He found such a role as Harrison Ford's partner in the muddled thriller "The Devil's Own" (1997), one of his first films after his unsuccessful 1994 bid to become Panama's president. His worldwide recognition as a champion of the Nueva Cancion (New Song) movement of salsa that brought substance to what was formerly viewed as simply dance music was not enough to sway the voters of his homeland, many unable to regard him as a serious candidate because his career required so much time outside the country.

In 1997, Blades headed the cast of composer Paul Simon's first Broadway musical, "The Capeman", based on a true story about a murderous youth who becomes a poet in prison. In interviews, he has stated that he believes his biggest mistake was releasing an English-language album in 1988, just because everyone thought he should in the wake of his 1987 Grammy win for "Escenas"--a trap he sees younger singers like his "Capeman" co-star Marc Anthony falling into. Staying true to his musical vision and defying convention in nearly every way, he earned his fourth Grammy for "Tiempos" (1999), his first album with the 12-piece Costa Rican band Editus and one in marked contrast to the commercial trend of Latin music. For someone who has played his share of policemen, Blades relished his role as Mexican artist Diego Rivera in Tim Robbins' "Cradle Will Rock" (also 1999), which pitted his character's communist sensibilities against those of John Cusack's Nelson Rockefeller. He then made his first foray to regular series work with "Gideon's Crossing" (ABC, 2000-01), playing a medical colleague of star Andre Braugher in this new offering from writer-executive producer Paul Attanasio, and also appeared as a rancher in the long-awaited film version of "All the Pretty Horses" (2000), adapted from the novel by Cormac McCarthy.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Hands of Stone (2013)
2.
 Counselor, The (2013)
3.
 Bad 25 (2012)
4.
 Safe House (2012)
5.
 Spoken Word (2010)
6.
 Secuestro Express (2004) Sergio
7.
 Imagining Argentina (2003) Silvio Ayala
8.
 Once Upon a Time In Mexico (2003) Jorge Fbi
9.
 Maldonado Miracle, The (2003) Cruz
10.
 Spin (2003) Ernesto Bejarano
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Grew up in the working-class neighborhood of Carrasquilla in Panama City, Panama
1964:
Student riot against U.S. forces in the Canal Zone awakened his political sensibilities; 21 Panamanians were killed and another 500 wounded; from that point on, stopped singing in English
1966:
Recorded first album with Los Salvajes del Ritmo (The Rhythm Savages)
1970:
Recorded and released first album in New York, <i>De Panama a Nueva York</i>
:
Went back to Panama to obtain law degree
1974:
Returned to U.S., remaining for a year with parents in Miami, FL
1975:
Moved to NYC; rented a tiny apartment on East 61st Street for $175 a month, within walking distance of Fania Records, where he would get a job in the mailroom for $125 a week; sang with salseros Ray Barretto and Larry Harlow (known as 'El Judio Maravilloso/The Marvelous Jew')
1976:
Teamed up with trombonist Willie Colon for a series of albums including <i>Siembra</i>, one of the biggest-selling salsa records
1983:
First film as actor, "The Last Fight" (also wrote songs), directed by and co-starring Fred Williamson; also co-starred Colon
1983:
Composed first musical film score for feature "When the Mountains Tremble"
1984:
Signed with Elektra records
1985:
Profiled in the documentary "The Return of Ruben Blades"; aired on PBS in 1988
1985:
First film as co-screenwriter, "Crossover Dreams"; also starred and composed score
1988:
Portrayed Sheriff Bernabe Montoya in "The Milagro Beanfield War"
1989:
Wrote and performed the song "Tu y Yo" in Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing"
1989:
TV acting debut as a Death Row inmate in "Dead Man Out" (HBO); first collaboration with actor Danny Glover
1990:
Played Stevey in Lee's "Mo' Better Blues"
1990:
Composed the score for Sidney Lumet's "Q & A"
1990:
Reteamed with Glover in "Predator 2"
1991:
Received first Emmy nomination for supporting role of the gigolo who groomed the title character for stardom in the HBO biopic "The Josephine Baker Story", starring Lynn Whitfield
1991:
Acted opposite Anthony Hopkins in HBO's "One Man's War," portraying a reluctant attorney who helps Hopkins in his pursuit of justice
1992:
Launched the political party Papa Egoro ("Mother Earth") in his native Panama
1992:
Garnered second Emmy nomination for leading performance as a janitor romancing Christine Lahti's high school principal in "Crazy From the Heart" (TNT)
1994:
Ran for the presidency of Panama; placed third; first free elections in Panama in a quarter century
1994:
Portrayed an abrasively funny L.A. detective in Richard Rush's "Color of Night"
1997:
Played Harrison Ford's police partner in "The Devil's Own"
1997:
Brought some mild humor to small role as a photojournalist in Wayne Wang's "The Chinese Box"
1997:
Made emergency trip to Panama to assume the presidency of the political party Papa Egoro in an effort to rescue it from internal dissent
1997:
Starred in the Paul Simon-Derek Walcott Broadway musical "The Capeman"; played older incarnation of title character Salvator Agron, who as a teen gang member stabbed to death two NYC teenagers
1999:
Appeared in "Cradle Will Rock" as Mexican artist Diego Rivera
2000:
Acted in Billy Bob Thornton's "All the Pretty Horses", adapted from the best-selling novel by Cormac McCarthey
2000:
Co-starred with Andre Braugher on the ABC medical drama "Gideon's Crossing"
2003:
Featured in Robert Rodriguez's Western thriller "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" opposite Johnny Depp, Salma Hayek, and Antonio Banderas
2005:
Played the father of a kidnapped young woman (Mia Maestro) in the crime drama "Secuestro express"
2009:
Acted in the drama "Spoken Word"
2012:
Appeared in "Safe House" opposite Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

University of Panama: - 1974
University of Panama: - 1974
Harvard Law School: Cambridge , Massachusetts - 1985

Notes

On Willie Colon: "Willie is one of the first musicians who traveled from New York to Latin America and received a lot of information from other places. He developed a Pan American message of social awareness, and when he met me he found someone with more fluency in Spanish capable of articulating many ideas. He contributed with his New York street culture, his talent as a producer and an incredible, truly Latino, pure tropical energy. A mixture of prankishness and sense of humor, of virility and feeling. He's extremely sensitive, and one of the most intelligent persons I know.

"I'm grateful to him because he's the one who gave me the chance to show my music. He was like my artistic godfather, and no record label could say no to my music, because he was behind it at a time when he was the No 1 salsa star in the world." --Ruben Blades quoted in Los Angeles Times, September 12, 1993.

"People think, 'This guy's arrogant--he wants to go from being a musician to being president.' I went into politics because it is service to your country. I didn't do it because I needed a job. I don't live off politics. You should make your money before you go into politics so you don't steal from the people. It's why I come back here and get a job as an actor or do a concert." --Blades to Robert Dominguez in Daily News, August 18, 1994.

"And the reason why Willie and I became so successful was because Latin music for a long time had been escapist; people listened to it to forget, to be entertained or to dance."

"People accepted these songs as relevent. They were not overtly political or ideological. But all of a sudden people in Latin America started to see themselves in these stories. Soon there was a huge explosion of interest, and the reason we sold so many copies of 'Siembra' was because everybody bought it, including people who didn't dance or particularly like salsa." --Blades to Denis Hamill in Daily News, October 12, 1997.

"Let's see who the hell remembers certain songs that are popular now 50 years from now. I can guarantee you that my songs are going to be remembered, because they were written honestly and with quality. They were not written for an audience of today based on what the people of today want. It was written for all people, at all times, anywhere in the world, and with a desire to make an honest, intelligent product." --Blades quoted in Los Angeles Times, September 8, 1999.

Regarding the disintegration of his political party Papa Egora: "One of the huge, bitter lessons that I learned is that in order for this effort to continue in an efficient way, I have to be in Panama 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. But my problem is that I don't support myself through politics, so I needed to work--and work took me out of Panama. And when I was away, people that I had delegated authority to, these people took the opportunity and used it for their own benefit. They dragged the party to the precipice."

"All I want to do right now is work, pay my bills. It's not that I'm disappointed. I just try to take one step at a time." --Blades in Daily News, December 5, 1999.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Lisa Lebenzon. Actor. Met while attending Harvard; married in December 1986; divorced.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Ruben Dario Blades Sr. Detective. A basketbal star and conga player; accused of being a CIA agent by then-Colonel Manuel Noriega, in charge of Panamanian military intelligence, and forced into exile.
mother:
Anoland Blades. Actor, singer, pianist. Deceased; worked on a radio soap opera; born in Cuba.

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute