Family & Companions
A popular comedian who made the successful transition to dramatic actor, Cheech Marin earned his greatest fame as one-half of the stoned comedy duo, Cheech and Chong. Rising out of the counterculture of the late 1960s, Cheech and Chong went on to become one of the top comedy the 1970s and early 1980s, thanks to their vulgar, low-brow humor centered on racial stereotypes and a never-ending quest to score good marijuana. Cheech and Chong hit their stride with a string of hit comedy albums, including the top-selling Big Bambu (1972) and the Grammy-winning Los Cochinos (1973). They translated their album success into the hit movie, "Up in Smoke" (1978), which spawned five sequels and earned new fans of all ethnic and racial stripes with each successive generation. Marin went his own way with "Born in East L.A." (1987) and eventually segued over to television drama with a scene-stealing run on "Nash Bridges" (CBS, 1996-2001). He also had a highly successful second career as a voiceover actor with performances in "The Lion King" (1994) and "Cars" (2006), while serving as director Robert Rodriguez's go-to character actor in such films as "From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996), "Spy Kids" (2003) and "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" (2003). By 2008, after years of speculation, Marin reunited with Tommy Chong for a sold-out tour, proving that both actors were still enormously attractive to a generation born decades after they made their first impact on popular culture.
Born on July 13, 1946 in Los Angeles, Marin was raised in nearby Granada Hills by his father, Oscar, an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, and his mother, Elsa, a secretary. Marin displayed both his artistic merit and athletic prowess as a child, performing in several bands and even on albums while also boxing competitively in local police leagues. Later in life, he attended California State University, Northridge, where he majored in English literature, only to leave eight credits shy of his degree in order to dodge the Vietnam War draft and flee to Canada. Marin settled in Vancouver, British Columbia, which later proved to be a fateful decision, because it was there that he met future comedy partner, former nightclub owner Tommy Chong, while performing with the troupe City Works. The two began performing improvisational skits that combined music, comedy and - in the beginning - nude women who performed at Chong's own strip club. Forming "Cheech and Chong" at the end of the decade, the duo's act derived from the free-love, drug-using counterculture that surrounded them, resulting in what may have been the first official brand of stoner humor.
Marin was able to return to the United States after being classified 4-F for an old skiing injury, which allowed him to avoid the draft. Meanwhile, Cheech and Chong graduated from nightclubs in Toronto and Los Angeles to become the opening act for major rock bands like the Allman Brothers Band and the Rolling Stones. They released their first in a series of hugely popular comedy albums, Cheech and Chong (1971), which featured one of their most famous skits, "Dave." The duo followed up with Big Bambu (1972), which boasted an album cover that resembled a Bambu rolling papers package and became the largest-selling comedy album of all time, a distinction held for many years. Next up was Los Cochinos (1973), a Grammy-winning album that included another popular skit, "Basketball Jones," which featured musicians George Harrison, Carole King and Billy Preston. Throughout this time, Marin - who was entirely Mexican-American - and Chong - who was half-Chinese, half Scottish-Irish Canadian - underscored their lowbrow humor that consisted of an overriding concern with the acquisition and consumption of marijuana, complete with sly commentaries on racial stereotypes and overbearing authority.
Following two more albums, Cheech & Chong's Wedding Album (1974) and Sleeping Beauty (1976), Cheech and Chong made a fluid transition to films with the hit comedy "Up in Smoke" (1978). Budgeted at a modest $2 million, the movie grossed $47.5 million domestically, making it both the highest grossing comedy and the most profitable film released that year. Chock full of classic vignettes tied together with a simple quest to find a bag of weed - including the now-fabled van made entirely out of marijuana - "Up in Smoke" went on to earn more than $100 million worldwide and became a classic revered by generations to follow. The surprising success of their first film venture led to five sequels of varying success and comedic quality, though none matched the vitality and impact of the original. Though there was some of the old magic in "Cheech and Chong's Next Movie" (1980) and "Cheech and Chong's Nice Dreams" (1981), the zap was long gone by the time they made "Cheech and Chong's The Corsican Brothers" (1984), which lacked the crude stoner humor that made them famous in the first place.
Branching out fully on his own after taking baby steps with small parts in "After Hours" (1985) and "Echo Park" (1985), Marin made his feature directing debut with "Born in East L.A." (1987), which was inspired by his music video parody of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." video two years earlier. In the film, he starred as an East L.A. repairman who is caught in an INS raid without his wallet, which leads to him being deported to Mexico even though he cannot even speak Spanish. Despite lukewarm reviews, the movie earned respectable business. After going against type and playing a singing East Indian shop owner for a sketch on "The Tracey Ullman Show" (Fox, 1987-1990), he made his first venture into voiceover work with the animated feature "Oliver & Company" (1988). Though he failed to get his pilot for "The Cheech Show" (NBC, 1988) on air, Marin provided the voice of Buck the Dog on several episodes of Fox's "Married. . . With Children" (Fox, 1986-1997) and landed a recurring role as the recently divorced Mexican chef Chuy Castillos on the sitcom spin-off, "The Golden Palace" (CBS, 1992-93).
Marin made the segue to television drama playing Lieutenant Joe Dominguez, who is called out of retirement to partner with Don Johnson's titular detective "Nash Bridges" (CBS, 1996-2001). While maintaining his regular status throughout the show's six-season run, Marin continued his voiceover work by reuniting with Chong to portray the riotous Beetle Boys in "FernGully: The Last Rainforest" (1992). He followed up by teaming with Whoopi Goldberg and Jim Cummings to voice hyenas in the Disney animated blockbuster "The Lion King" (1994). Widely seen in the small, but indelible character role as a bartender in Robert Rodriguez's "Desperado" (1995), Marin again collaborated with the young Chicano filmmaker to play three roles - a border guard, a strip club doorman populated by vampires, and a criminal contact - in the vampire action comedy "From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996). That same busy year, he played a sleazy boxing promoter in "The Great White Hype" (1996) and provided sturdy support to pro-golfers Kevin Costner and Don Johnson in the sports drama "Tin Cup" (1996). He also appeared in "Paulie" (1998), starring Gena Rowlands and Tony Shalhoub.
Following appearances in two smaller films, "Picking Up the Pieces" (2000) and "Resurrection Blvd." (2000), Marin was cast as Uncle Felix Gumm in Robert Rodriguez's successful "Spy Kids" (2000), a role he reprised for "Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams" (2002) and "Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over" (2003). He worked with Rodriguez once again in "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" (2003), playing a talkative bartender who helps a rogue CIA agent (Johnny Depp) track down El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas). After being one of many celebrities to pass in and out of the messy ensemble dramedy centered around Bob Dylan, "Masked & Anonymous" (2003), Marin went back to voice work on "Goody Boy!" (2003) and the straight-to-video release, "The Lion King 1 1/2" (2004). He followed by playing a dumb beat cop in the miserable "Christmas with the Kranks" (2004), starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis. In "The Underclassman" (2005), Marin underplayed his role as a police captain who tries to give a loose cannon cop (Nick Cannon) helpful advice despite routine screw-ups.
Following an episode of "Judging Amy" (CBS, 1999-2005), Marin voiced Ramone in the Pixar animated hit, "Cars" (2006) and Manuel in "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" (2008). Most significantly at this time, Marin had a recurring role as the father of Hugo "Hurley" Reyes on the popular series "Lost" (ABC, 2004-2010). Despite his varied success over the years, there was always talk of a "Cheech and Chong" reunion, which gained momentum following the nine-month incarceration of Tommy Chong for selling bongs over the Internet. Finally in July 2008, after two years of speculation and false starts, the duo reunited and hit the road for their "Cheech and Chong Light Up America/Canada" tour. The tour was a huge hit, particularly among a new generation of college students, and found its way Down Under for a leg in Australia. In 2009 and 2010, when the legalization of marijuana began picking up steam, Cheech and Chong found themselves hitting the cable news circuit promoting the idea through their comedy and a new song called "Get It Legal."
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Met future partner Tommy Chong in Vancouver and began performing improv together
Formed comedy duo Cheech and Chong
Recorded first comedy album, Cheech & Chong, received a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Recording
Made feature debut as a writer and actor in the comedy "Up in Smoke"; co-wrote and co-starred with Chong
Discovered Paul Reubens, then performing his Pee-wee Herman at the Groundlings improv group and cast him in "Cheech & Chong's Nice Dreams" (1981)
Re-teamed with Chong for a small but pivotal part in Martin Scorsese's "After Hours"
Directed the short-form video "Cheech and Chong Get Out of My Room" (also wrote; co-starred and performed songs with Chong)
Feature directing debut, "Born in East L.A." (also wrote screenplay and lyrics for the title song)
Portrayed a singing East Indian shopowner in a sketch on "The Tracey Ullman Show" (Fox)
Lent his voice to the character of Tito in the Disney animated film "Oliver & Company"
Executive produced the unsold NBC sitcom pilot "The Cheech Show" (also co-wrote and starred)
Guest starred on HBO's "Dream On" in the episode entitled "The Taking of Pablum 1-2-3"
Re-teamed with Chong to record roles for the animated feature "FernGully: The Last Rainforest" (released 1992)
Provided the voice of Buck, the family dog, on several episodes of the Fox sitcom "Married... with Children"
Debut as a TV series regular, played the recently divorced Mexican chef Chuy Castillos on the CBS sitcom spin-off "The Golden Palace"
Provided the voice of Banzai the Hyena for the blockbuster Disney animated feature "The Lion King"; also performed songs
First collaboration as an actor with writer-director Robert Rodriguez, played the 'Short Bartender' in "Desperado"
Had a supporting role opposite Kevin Costner and Don Johnson in Ron Shelton's "Tin Cup"
Cast as a regular on the CBS crime drama "Nash Bridges," co-starring Don Johnson
Hosted "Latino Laugh Festival," a pay-per-view production of Showtime Event Television
Appeared in the feature "Paulie: A Parrot's Tale," starring Gena Rowlands
Cast as Jesus in the feature "Luminarias"
Re-teamed with Robert Rodriguez in the film "Spy Kids 2: The Island Of Lost Dreams"
Again teamed with director Robert Rodriguez for "Once Upon A Time In Mexico"
Cast in John Sayles' political satire "Silver City," co-starring Chris Cooper, Kris Kristofferson, Daryl Hannah and Richard Dreyfuss
Cast in the holiday comedy "Christmas with the Kranks"
Played Captain Victor Delgado, opposite Nick Cannon, in the comedy "Underclassman"
Voiced Ramone in the Pixar animated feature "Cars"
Had a recurring role in the Fox series "Lost," as Hurley's father, David Reyes
Lent his voice to the live-action comedy "Beverly Hills Chihuahua"
Starred in "The Perfect Game" about the first non-U.S. team to win the Little League World Series
Appeared in the action thriller "Machete," directed by Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez