N.Y. Encyclopedia of Famous Puerto Ricans
Benicio Del Toro
Born on February 19, 1967, in San German, PR. Raised in Santurce, PR. Moved to Mercersburg, PA at 13 and went to Mercersburg Academy. For more information, read the three part article written by Benicio for the Miami Herald.
University of California at San Diego. Changed major to acting so he could audition for a role in a school production. Decided to pursue acting full time so he left school and moved to New York City. Studied at Circle in the Square Theatre School in New York. Won a scholarship to The Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting where he studied for three-four years.
After two years in Los Angeles, he got his first job as a guest star on Miami Vice. Cast as lead in the play, Orphans. Casting director saw him and asked him to audition for a role in Licence To Kill.
Painting, listening to music, daydreaming.
Line from The Usual Suspects:
"Kill away, Mr. McManus." Kobayashi
Jazz, George Harrison, Latin
Badlands, Basquiat, Papillon
John Huston, Martin Scorsese, John Cassavettes, Terrence Malick, Erich von Stroheim, Adrian Brunel, Bryan Singer
Actors with the earliest influence:
Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Eddie Murphy, John Malkovich
Benicio gained approximately 45 lbs. in nine weeks for his portrayal of Oscar Zeta Acosta in Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. He did it by, "Eating chairs, tables, buildings and bridges. But what really pushed the balance was donuts."
Benicio's character in Basquiat didn't have a last name in the script. The last name "Dalmau" came from Raymond Dalmau, a Puerto Rican basketball player in the 70's and early 80's. Raymond Dalmau wore the shirt Benicio wears in the film when he was in the Puerto Rican National Selection.
The best advise Benicio has ever been given regarding acting came from Christopher Walken: "When you're in a scene and you don't know what you're gonna do, don't do anything."
Benicio thinned his eyebrows and shaved his hairline for his role of Fenster in The Usual Suspects.
"He's like an acting animal, this guy who comes
out of the forest to make movies better. He's fearless, and he has a very
distinctive imagination for character. He's one of the few actors who can make
flamboyant choices that never just say, 'Look at me.' He's not showy. If he
stands out, it's only because the rest of the people haven't risen as high to
the bar." Sean Penn, The Pledge/The Indian Runner Director
"I can see how in certain circumstances Benicio could be unhappy. He's extremely bright and has lots of ideas, the lion's share of which are really good. We'd meet every few weeks for a few hours, and a lot of it was, 'Wouldn't it be more interesting if...?' He had a huge influence on the story being much more emotional, more interesting and truer to the culture the character sprang from. For some people, spending time like that would be profoundly irritating. Not to me. I'll do that all day. He was totally there and 'on' Man, he has so much to contribute, you'd be a moron not to take advantage of it. I can't help but be infatuated by somebody who cares that much." Steven Soderbergh, Traffic Director
"He's one of the reasons why I wanted to do the movie. I think he's a brilliant actor. Working with him was amazing." Ryan Phillippe, The Way of the Gun Co-Star
"Del Toro is an exciting actor. He's obsessed with his work. He draws the camera like a magnet because he keeps coming up with things that are dark, brooding, dangerous and sexy." Terry Gilliam, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas Director
"He's killed early into the movie and he probably has, like, nine lines. But I found it the most memorable performance of 1995. The guy just goes out and thinks, 'No one's gonna understand what I'm doing except for me, but I'm a f***in genius.' " Matt Damon on Benicio's performance in The Usual Suspects
"Benicio has a wonderful mind. It's a little like firecrackers going off; he's got these great ideas that just explode." Ed Harris, China Moon Co-Star
"More than any other actor I've ever met, Benicio is not in pursuit of fame or recognition. I think he's a guy who has a great disdain for popularity. He's very resistant to playing a leading man. He would rather create a character." Christopher McQuarrie, The Usual Suspects Writer, The Way of the Gun Writer/Director
Boricuas Hall Of Fame Home Page
Friday July 09, 2004