"I do get more recognized now. If I go to dinner, people look at me more now and whisper. But as an actor, I would be no one without the people who come and see me. So it would be ridiculous for it to bother me. It just bothers me when I'm intoxicated." Benicio Del Toro
Puerto Rican actor Benicio Del Toro was launched to superstardom after portraying Mexican good-natured cop Javier Rodriguez in Steven Soderbergh's acclaimed film Traffic (2000). Due to his spectacular performance, Del Toro was highly praised with an Oscar, a Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award, a Blockbuster Entertainment Award, a BAFTA Award, a Chicago Film Critics Association Award, a New York Film Critics Award, a San Diego Film Critics Award, a Vegas Film Critics Award, an Online Film Critics Society Award, a Florida Film Critics Award, a National Society of Film Critics Award, a Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award, a Berlin International Film Festival Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Toronto Film Critics Association Award. Initially, the Academy Award-winning actor netted two Independent Spirit Awards for his bravura performances as mumbling, baffling mobster Fred Fenste in the 1995 The Usual Suspects and as the streetwise buddy of the titular artist, Benny Dalmau, in Julian Schnabel's biopic Basquiat (1996).
More recent, Del Toro received critical acclaim for the scene stealing Jack Jordan in the drama 21 Grams (2003), for which he won a L.A. Film Critics Association Award and a Venice Film Festival Award. He also nabbed Academy Award, Chicago Film Critics Association and Screen Actors Guild nominations.
Off screen, one of People Magazine's Most Beautiful People (2001), Del Toro is rumored to have had sex in the elevator of Los Angeles' Chateau Marmont hotel with actress Scarlett Johansson. However, Johansson, who currently is dating actor Josh Hartnettfor, strongly denied the rumors and said, "If you've ever been in a Chateau Marmont elevator, you'll know. You can barely stand, let alone do anything like that."
Del Toro, whose trademark is his slurred, mumbling voice and odd mannerisms, was once romantically involved with Chiara Mastroianni and Alicia Silverstone, and once engaged to Valeria Golino (1988-1992).
Childhood and Family:
Son to attorney parents, Benicio Monserrate Rafael del Toro Sanchez, was born on February 19, 1967, in Santurce, Puerto Rico. He spent his early childhood in Puerto Rico with his dad Gustavo Del Toro, his mom Fausta Sanchez-Del Toro and older brother Gustavo, before moving to a farm in Pennsylvania after the death of his mother.
While in Puerto Rico, Benicio Del Toro, whose nickname is Beno, attended a Catholic school in Miramar, Puerto Rico, called The Academy of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. After his relocation to Pennsylvania, thirteen-year-old Beno was sent to Mercersburg Academy boarding school where he became a basketball star. Encouraged by his father to pursue higher education, Beno enrolled at the University of California in San Diego and majored in Business. However, he left college to study drama at the Circle in the Square Theatre School in New York and won a scholarship to the famous Stella Adler Acting Conservatory in Los Angeles.
Formerly advised by his family to be a lawyer, Benicio Del Toro considered acting as a career after he dropped out of college. He then began to take acting classes in New York and Los Angeles. His mounting love of acting blossomed in 1987 when Del Toro landed guest starring roles on the television shows "Miami Vice," "Private Eye," "Hard Copy," "Shell Game," and "Ohara," and won the role of Duke the Dog-Faced Boy in his feature film debut Big Top Pee-wee (1988). He even became the youngest actor ever to play a play Bond villain in the 007 film License to Kill (1989, played Dario). Unfortunately, the action film was a box office disappointment.
After the unsatisfactory Big Top Pee-wee and License to Kill, Del Toro moved on to NBC's television miniseries "Drug Wars: The Camarena Story" (1990), portraying drug lord Caro Quintero. The following years, he went on to deliver good performances in such films as Sean Penn's directorial debut The Indian Runner (1991), Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992, played wicked Alvaro Harana), Money for Nothing (1993, portrayed Dino Palladino), Golden Balls (1993), Fearless (1993), China Moon (1994) and 1994's Swimming with Sharks, opposite Kevin Spacey.
"I see The Usual Suspects as the time where I was, quote unquote, discovered. It took me six, seven years to get to that place. And it was not easy. You're fighting with people who doubt you and your choice of career. There are a lot of doubts and you have to stay focused with what you want. I never put a time limit on me being successful or not. I just cared about the work as an actor. But it wasn't easy because there were a lot of ups and downs. I don't know if you know much about baseball, but baseball is the game of failure. You deal with failure - strike, strike, strike - all the time. Acting is like that. You have to have a very thick skin in a way - your hair is too dark, you're too ugly for the part, your audition wasn't good." Benicio Del Toro
Del Toro's breakout role arrived with the supporting role of mumbling, mysterious gangster Fred Fenste in director Bryan Singer's The Usual Suspects (1995). His brilliant performance garnered him much attention from critics and moviegoers alike. As a result, Del Toro netted an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male and was established as "the guy to watch."
The actor's next breakthrough came in 1996 when he was cast as Benny Dalmau, the streetwise buddy of the titular artist, in Julian Schnabel's film biography of author Jean-Michel Basquiat, Basquiat (1996). The role won him an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male in 1996.
That same year, Del Toro also played Detective Lopez in Joyride (1996), costarred as cocky Mexican baseball star Juan Primo in the big budget thriller The Fan (1996, opposite Robert De Niro and Wesley Snipes) and delivered a charismatic turn as charming, cold-blooded mobster Gaspare in Abel Ferrara's The Funeral (1996).
Del Toro's winning performance in 1995's The Usual Suspects put him on the radar of Alicia Silverstone who cast him as Vincent Roche, a car thief turned accidental kidnapper, in Silverstone's vehicle Excess Baggage (1997). In the action film, he received positive reviews from critics. He then teamed up with Johnny Depp in the 1998 film adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's legendary book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, portraying lawyer Dr. Gonzo/Oscar Z. Acosta. Since the film failed to break the box office, Del Toro took some time off from the screen.
"My career went into the hole after Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. People might have seen what they saw on screen and subconsciously, people in the business might have taken what they saw literally. I think people thought, 'He got fat. He got weird. His mumbling increased tenfold.' I was trying to do an interpretation of a masterpiece of a book, and that's what the character was - an animal!" Benicio Del Toro on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Returning to the screen in 2000, Del Toro gave a brief but remarkable performance as the diamond thief and currier Franky Four Fingers in Guy Ritchie's hip caper comedy Snatch (2000, starring Jason Statham, Alan Ford and Brad Pitt). He also impressed audiences when he joined actor Ryan Philippe as a pair of low-rent worthless criminals in Christopher McQuarrie's The Way of the Gun (2000) and worked again with director Sean Penn for the supporting role of mentally challenged Native American Toby Jay Wadenah in the crime film The Pledge (2001).
In the Steven Soderbergh's 2000 hit Traffic, Del Toro's career skyrocketed with the role of Spanish good-natured cop Javier Rodriguez. His spectacular acting garnered several awards including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a Kansas City Film Critics Circle, a Blockbuster Entertainment, a BAFTA, a Chicago Film Critics Association, a New York Film Critics, a San Diego Film Critics, a Vegas Film Critics, an Online Film Critics Society, a Florida Film Critics and a National Society of Film Critics for Best Supporting Actor. Additionally, Del Toro took home a Vancouver Film Critics Circle award, a Berlin International Film Festival, a Screen Actors Guild and a Toronto Film Critics Association award for Best Actor.
Though he stayed out of the spotlight in 2002, Del Toro turned heads again with the supporting role of Jack Jordan, opposite Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, in the drama 21 Grams (2003). Through his brilliant performance, Del Toro nabbed a L.A. Film Critics Association award for Best Supporting Actor and a Venice Film Festival award for Best Actor, as well as received nominations at the Oscars, Chicago Film Critics Association and Screen Actors Guild Awards. The same year, he was also noticed for playing Aaron Hallam in the action thriller The Hunted (2003, costarring Tommy Lee Jones).
Recently, Del Toro played Jackie Boy in the hit film adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel Sin City (2005). He will soon star as Ernesto 'Che' Guevara in Che (2005), writer-director Terrence Malick's biopic about Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara. In the film, Del Toro will share the screen with Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt and Ryan Gosling.