"I love independent film; its the only place as an actor youre totally allowed to breathe. Youre not following the plot, or the next action beat, or promoting some big dumb movie. Independent film is for actors that love to act. Theres more interesting storytelling. Its not about a paycheck, thats for damn sure."
A multi-faceted performer and Emmy Award® winner, John Leguizamo has established a career that defies categorization. With boundless energy and creativity, his work in film, theatre, television, and literature covers a variety of genrescontinually threatening to create a few of its own.
Born in Bogotá, Colombia, John Leguizamo was four years old when his family emigrated to the United States. He was raised in Queens, New York, attended New York University, and studied under the legendary Lee Strasberg. It was there that Leguizamo started working the comedy club circuit and first appeared in front of the camera in an episode of Miami Vice (1984). Quickly garnering small roles in various productions like Brian de Palmas Casualties of War (1989) and Mike Nichols Regarding Henry (1991), it was his first-rate performance as a sensitive and naïve young man in Hangin with the Homeboys (1991) where he started to gain wider recognition and raise the eyebrows of producers.
The year 1991 marked another turning point when Leguizamo created his off-Broadway sensation Mambo Mouth, as the writer and performer of the one-man show, in which he portrayed seven different characters. He received Obie, Outer Critics Circle and Vanguardia awards for his performance. The play's HBO special led to his first television comedy special, Comedy Central's The Talent Pool, for which he received a CableACE Award. He returned to the stage two years later with another satirical production poking fun at Latino stereotypes titled Spic-O-Ramawinning the Drama Desk Award and four CableACE Awards.
Freak, Leguizamo's third one-man show, ended a successful run on Broadway in 1998. Billed as a Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography," Freak went on to garner Tony Award nominations for Best Play and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play, as well as winning Leguizamo the Drama Desk and the Outer Critic's Circle Awards for Outstanding Solo Performance. A special presentation of Freak, directed by Spike Lee, aired on HBO and earned Leguizamo the Emmy Award® for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Music Program as well as a nomination for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special.
In 2003, Leguizamo made his directorial debut and starred in HBO's Undefeated, the story of a drama about a young Latino boxer dealing with love and career success. This was quickly followed by his starring role as a TV reporter in Sebastián Corderos Crónicas (2004), which debuted to much success at the Cannes Film Festival and went on to critical praise in Toronto and Sundance.
Among the over 75 credits to his resume, Leguizamo continues to take on a wide array of challenges, impressing audiences with key roles in such productions as Brian de Palmas Carlitos Way (1993), To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (1995) (Golden Global nomination for Best Supporting Actor), Assault on Precinct 13 (2005), Sueño (2005), Spun (2002), Ice Age (2002), Spawn (1997), King of the Jungle (2000) (ALMA nomination, Best Lead Actor), Mike Newells Love in the Time of Cholera (2007), Spike Lees Summer of Sam (1999) and Baz Luhrmanns William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge (2001) (ALMA nomination, Best Supporting Actor).
An accomplished author, Leguizamo also penned his autobiography Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas, and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends. Harper Collins released the fast-paced, hilarious, and poignant memoir in October 2006. His most recent films The Take (2007) and The Babysitters (2007) debuted at the Toronto Film Festival and he will be seen in the M. Night Shyamalans The Happening, Righteous Kill (opposite Robert De Niro and Al Pacino) and The Ministers in 2008.
A recipient of the 2002 ALMA Award for Entertainer of the Year and numerous awards for his continued work as prolific writer, actor, comedian and director; John Leguizamo is a consummate artist who continually displays a rare versatility and whose ability to fluidly transition from each role to the next is unmatched. To look over his resume, it is obvious that he is fond of creating stimulating work and remains firmly rooted in the belief that while entertaining audiences is key, the best art is art that challenges us to learn from it and to better ourselves.
Cinequest is honored to welcome John Leguizamo as a Maverick Spirit Award recipient and to honor his stunning career.
Presented by The Castellano Family