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Most influential Hispanic Americans in Hollywood’s film industry

Some talents cannot be contained by borders, and the legacy that these Hispanic Americans have left on the big screen irrefutably proves this.

When we say “legacy,” we are not talking about a few awards for Best Foreign Film or about secondary characters with funny accents that make the protagonists look good. We are talking about a lasting influence in Hollywood; we are talking about milestones, such as the case of Roma, directed by Mexican Alfonso Cuarón, who, among other things, made history by being the first production of a streaming platform to compete for Best Film at the Oscars (taking home three statuettes, including Best Director), as well as being the first Spanish-language film nominated for Best Film and a long list of other distinctions.

As part of the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we introduce you to these celebrities who have stood out in the film industry, adding flavor to Hollywood, and making the Hispanic American community around the world proud.

Alejandro González Iñárritu (Mexico)

This director, producer, and screenwriter was nominated for Oscars numerous times. He finally obtained the statuette in 2015 for his film The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Other acclaimed films of this Mexican are Biutiful, Birdman, and Babel. Even so, recognition is not enough for Iñárritu, who decided to venture into the world of virtual reality, telling the stories of the immigrants who cross the desert to reach the United States in an experience called Carne y Arena (Flesh and Sand), acclaimed by critics.

Alfonso Cuarón (Mexico)

Born in Mexico City, Alfonso Cuarón has directed, written, and produced numerous films of all genres. From Y tu mamá también (And Your Mother Too) to the first installment of the Harry Potter saga, through fantasy films like El laberinto del Fauno (The Faun’s Labyrinth) and science fiction like Gravity, Cuarón has never been pigeonholed. He then chose to create something more intimate. After winning Golden Globes, Oscars, and the Golden Lion, in 2018 Cuarón released Roma, the most personal film he has made so far, according to his own words. Fulfilling all predictions, this production managed to capture the attention of film critics, who gave him, among other awards, three Oscars, including Best Director.

Ana de Armas (Cuba)

She fell in love with cinema when she was a child, specifically, when she saw her first movie at her neighbor’s house (her family didn’t have a TV). She got her first big break at age 16 in the Spanish production Una Rosa de Francia (A Rose from France), which was shot in Cuba. Two years later, she went to Spain, where she stood out in series and films, to finally arrive in Hollywood in 2014, where she began to participate in projects such as Knock Knock, Hands of Stone, Blade Runner 2049, and Knives Out, along with important actors of Keanu Reeves, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, and Ryan Gosling. Soon you’ll see her on your screen with Daniel Craig in No Time to Die; while on the streets, these days she’s on Ben Affleck’s arm.

Antonio Banderas (Spain)

This actor, director, and producer has been everything: vampire, action hero, Pancho Villa, and even the SpongeBob pirate. But first was Almodóvar boy, director with whom he formally started his journey to Hollywood in the 80s. After films like ¡Átame! (Tie Me Up!) and Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), he made his English-language film debut in The Mambo Kings, and later excelled in several memorable productions such as Interview with the Vampire, where he acted with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, and Philadelphia, with Tom Hanks. His long career includes film, television, and several dubbing jobs in animated films, characterized by making his dubbing from English to Spanish. Last year, he won the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his work in Dolor y Gloria (Pain and Glory).

Benicio del Toro (Puerto Rico)

His parents wanted him to be a lawyer; fortunately, he didn’t listen to them. In addition to having received all kinds of awards, including one at the Cannes Film Festival, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, this prolific Puerto Rican has shared the big screen with the likes of Robert De Niro, Johnny Depp and Tommy Lee Jones in such popular productions around the world as The Usual Suspects, Snatch, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi and dozens of other tapes.

Diego Luna (Mexico)

His official start in the film industry was at the age of 8, with the short film El último fin de año (The last end of the year). After that, he spent some time switching between soap operas and movies, to finally achieve international fame in Alfonso Cuarón’s Y tu mamá también (And Your Mother Too), with Gael García Bernal. Since then, he has been dividing his work between the United States, Mexico, and Spain, sharing credits with figures such as Sean Penn, James Franco, Tom Hanks, Salma Hayek, and Katy Perry, and working under directors such as Woody Allen, Gus Van Sant, and Steven Spielberg. You can currently see him in the Pan y Circo (Bread and Circus) series at Amazon Prime Video and Narcos: Mexico at Netflix. He is also working on a series about the character Cassian Andor from Star Wars, for Disney Plus.

Emmanuel Lubezki (Mexico)

Also known as “Chivo”, Lubezki has worked with renowned directors such as Tim Burton, Ethan Cohen, Alfonso Cuarón, and Alejandro González Inárritu. What stands out about Lubezki is not his directing or scriptwriting, but the way he executes the cinematography in the films he works on. The recognition in this case lies in technical issues of filmmaking, like using natural light and cameras differently and uniquely in the productions he works on. He won the Oscar for Best Cinematography three years in a row, for the films Gravity, Birdman, and The Revenant.

Eugenio Derbez (México)

He is an actor, producer, writer, and director, but first of all, he is a comedian. After being part of the cast of several Mexican comedy programs, his program Al derecho y al Derbez catapulted him to national popularity. This was followed by Derbez en cuando, XHDRBZ, and La familia P. Luche, in addition to several appearances in theatrical productions. He, then, began to get the attention of international audiences with films such as No Instructions Included (2013) and How to Be a Latin Lover (2017). In addition to having worked with actors such as Rob Schneider and Adam Sandler and with director Scott Sanders, Derbez has a long list of credits as a dubbing actor, highlighting his work as Shrek‘s Donkey.

Gael García Bernal (Mexico)

Gael is a truly international artist who has starred in films in Mexico, the United States, Argentina, Spain, Chile, Bolivia, France, and Brazil. His early successes, such as Amores perros (Love’s a Bitch), Y tu mamá también (And Your Mother Too), and El crimen del padre Amaro (Father Amaro’s Crime), quickly positioned him in the film industry and earned him awards such as the Revelation Award at the Venice International Film Festival and the Ariel for Best Actor. In 2006 he debuted as a director with the film Déficit and in 2009 he won the Silver Mayahuel at the Guadalajara International Film Festival for his film career.

Guillermo del Toro (Mexico)

Guillermo del Toro needs no introduction. He is perhaps, along with Alfonso Cuarón, one of the most recognized and respected Mexicans in the film industry. A native of Guadalajara, this Mexican has not only directed, but has also acted and even been a special effects artist. His film The Shape of Water won two Oscars: Best Director and Best Film. He has also won BAFTA awards and a Golden Globe, among multiple other recognitions. Other of his most popular creations are Mimic, Hellboy, and El laberinto del fauno (The Labyrinth of the Fauno).

Javier Bardem (Spain)

From Jamón, Jamón (Jam, Jam) to Eat, Pray, Love, to Mar adentro (The Sea Inside), Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and Biutiful, this talented and multi-faceted Spaniard has taken on all sorts of filmmaking challenges, working with directors such as Pedro Almodóvar, Woody Allen, Alejandro González Iñárritu and the Coen brothers, as well as with a host of renowned stars. His work for No Country for Old Men earned him an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Bafta, and a SAG award, all in the category of Best Supporting Actor.

Salma Hayek (Mexico)

After sharing the screen with Antonio Banderas in Desperado (Desperate), she was engraved in the memory of film lovers with her burning performance in From Dusk Till Dawn, where she worked alongside George Clooney. Since then, this Mexican who began her career in soap operas has appeared in various Hollywood productions of comedy, drama, action, and even animation, highlighting her work in the film Frida, a film for which she was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress category.

SPECIAL MENTION: Rita Moreno (Puerto Rico)

There is no stopping this Puerto Rican actress, dancer, and singer. Therefore, we cannot finish our list without making a special mention to Rita Moreno.

Moreno arrived in New York when she was 4 years old and by the time she was 11, in 1942, she was already doing dubbing in Spanish, getting her first role in a Broadway musical at 13 in the play Skydrift, and later participating in film productions such as Singing in the Rain and The King and I. Finally, in 1961, she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in West Side Story. Since then, her career has been long and prolific, being one of the few people to have won the four great entertainment awards: the Emmy, the Golden Globe, the Oscar, and the Tony. She has participated in numerous theater, television, and film productions, including a new version of West Side Story directed by Steven Spielberg that will be released in December 2020.

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