A New York-born character actor of Puerto Rican lineage who began his career as a dancer, Hector Elizondo is best known to TV audiences for portraying Phillip Watters, a tough chief of surgery, on the popular medical drama “Chicago Hope” (1994-2000). For his brilliant effort, the alumni of Los Angeles’ Stella Adler Studio won a 1997 Emmy Award and a 2000 ALMA Award, in addition to earning many nominations. He took home a 1998 ALMA Award for his work in the made-for-television film Borrowed Hearts (1997) and was nominated for an Emmy for his supporting performance in Mrs. Cage (1992). The Emmy winner also has starred in such series as “Casablanca” (1983), “Kate Brasher” (2001) and “Century City” (2004) and appeared as a guest performer in shows like “The West Wing” (2002), “Without a Trace” (2003) and “Justice League” (2004-2006).
“Before I met him, all I knew was that he was an actor who played Puerto Rican drug dealers. Then I saw him in a couple of plays and I said, ‘Whoa, you can do other things!’ You put a toupee on him and he looks like a different guy. And I said to him, ‘I promise you’ll never have to play a Puerto Rican drug dealer for me.’” Noted director Garry Marshall on Hector Elizondo
On the big screen, Elizondo has forged a long-running partnership with renowned filmmaker and friend Garry Marshall. Starting in the early 1980s with the Marshall comedy Young Doctors in Love (1982), in which Elizondo amusingly played drag queen Angelo/Angela Bonafetti, the actor has since been cast in a number of the director’s films, most notably costarring in the Julia Robert’s hit Pretty Woman (1990, netted a Golden Globe nomination), the new husband of Richard Gere’s ex-wife in Runaway Bride (1999, earned an ALMA nomination) and the head of security in The Princess Diaries (2001) and the sequel The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004). More recently, he appeared in Marshall’s Georgia Rule (2007), which starred Jane Fonda and Lindsay Lohan. Additionally, Elizondo netted ALMA nominations for his performances in Robert Butler’s Turbulence (1997) and María Ripoll’s Tortilla Soup (2001).
As an accomplished stage actor, Elizondo made a name for himself as a versatile performer. He enjoyed success as God in “Steambath” (1971), from which he won an Obie Award, and as the scheming servant in “Sly Fox” (1976), where he was nominated for a Drama Desk.
As for his married life, the 5-foot, 10-inch actor has been married three times. He had a son, Rodd Elizondo (born 1956), with his first wife. Now, he is the husband of actress Carolee Campbell.
Childhood and Family:
Hector Elizondo was born on December 22, 1936, in New York, New York. He is the elder of two children of Martin Echevarria Elizondo (of Basque-Puerto Rican descent) and Carmen Medina Elizondo (born in Puerto Rico). His parents immigrated to New York City in the 1930s to find a better way of life.
In his youth, Hector showed a talent in both music and sports. At age 10, he sang for the Frank Murray Boy’s Choir and frequently appeared with W.C. Handy on local radio and TV. After graduating from Junior High School in 1951, he attended the High School of the Performing Arts, while also enrolling in a regular public school in which he was an excellent athlete. He was so good in baseball that both the New York Giants and the Pittsburgh Pirates scouted him.
Wanting to become a history teacher, in 1954 Hector attended City College, but dropped out after getting married and having a son, Rodd Elizondo (born in 1956). His marriage ended in 1957 and later, he studied dance at the Ballet Arts Company at Carnegie Hall and acting at Stella Adler Studio in Los Angeles, California.
During 1962 to 1963, Hector remarried and divorced again, and eventually found a new love in actress Carolee Campbell, whom he married on April 13, 1969. His wife is also a noted bookbinder and photographer.
Young Doctors in Love
Young Hector Elizondo worked in a sheet metal shop and on weekends played conga drums and guitar in a band, while pursuing his studies at New York City College. Unfortunately for the newly married Elizondo, he was soon forced to leave school to work full-time to support his family. After divorcing, he briefly danced with the Ballet Arts Company of Carnegie Hall, and in 1961, made his stage debut in the Equity Library Theatre production of “Mr. Roberts.” After this, Elizondo decided to pursue acting professionally.
In 1963, Elizondo made his feature film debut with a bit part in the crime/horror The Fat Black Pussycat and went on to debut on Off-Broadway in “Kill the One-Eyed Man” in 1965. By 1969, he had reach Broadway with a role opposite James Earl Jones in a production of “The Great White Hope,” and soon created a reputation as a versatile stage actor thanks to his leading role as God in the guise of a Puerto Rican bath attendant in “Steambath” (1971). While the play itself received mixed reviews, Elizondo’s performance was highly applauded and he won an Obie.
Elizondo had his next big screen role as an inspector in The Vixens (1969), which was ensued by a series of small roles in movies like Valdez Is Coming (1971, as a Mexican thug), Pocket Money (1972), Stand Up and an Be Counted (1972), Deadhead Miles (1972) and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974, as a psychopathic murderer). He costarred with Peter Falk in the NBC film Columbo: A Case of Immunity (1975) and portrayed Pancho Villa in the ABC film Wanted: The Sundance Woman (1976) as well as starred as Abraham Rodriguez in the comedy series “Popi” (1976). 1976 also saw the actor return to the stage in New York in the role of Simon Able, the conniving servant of George C. Scott, in “Sly Fox.” For his bright effort, he was nominated for a 1977 Drama Desk award.
In the 1980s, Elizondo befriended Garry Marshall and after having small parts as a detective in Richard Gere’s vehicle American Gigolo (1980) and as a cop in the thriller The Fan (1981), starring Lauren Bacall, the two started their fruitful partnership with 1982’s Young Doctors in Love, where Elizondo delivered an uproarious turn as a drag queen. He relocated to Los Angeles in the following year and soon scored the regular role of Captain Louis Renault in the short-lived NBC series “Casablanca” and a starring role in the NBC movie Women of San Quentin (both 1983) before reuniting with Marshall for the comedy films The Flamingo Kid (1984), playing Matt Dillon’s compassionate middle-class father, and Nothing in Common (1986), as the ad agency boss to Tom Hanks’ successful ad man David Basner. He also had an unaccredited part in Marshall’s comedy-romantic Overboard (1987), starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. Next, Elizondo was cast as Dave Whitman in the Fox series “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” (1987), appeared as a cop in the ABC movie Addicted to His Love (1988) and closed the decade with a small appearance in the sci-fi film Leviathan (1989).
Kicking off the 1990s, Elizondo’s affiliation with Marshall blossomed when he was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role as a supportive hotel manager in the hit romantic comedy Pretty Woman (1990), starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. He continued to play various roles in such movies as Marshall’s Frankie and Johnny (1991, starring Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer) and the football-themed Necessary Roughness (1991, as Coach Ed Gennero). Elizondo was also busy working on the small screen. He portrayed Hasan Demir in the TNT movie Forgotten Prisoners: The Amnesty Files (1990), starred as Sandy Stern in the ABC miniseries “The Burden of Proof” (1992) and picked up an Emmy nomination for playing the supporting role of Lt. Angel in the American Playhouse production of Mrs. Cage (1992), which starred Anne Bancroft in the title role. He also provided the voice of Ioz on the animated series “The Pirates of Dark Water” (1991-1993).
In 1994, Elizondo’s TV career gained a boost when he landed an important role opposite Adam Arkin in the CBS medical drama series “Chicago Hope,” a gig he retained until the show came to an end in 2000. Outstandingly portraying Dr. Phillip Watters, he won a 1997 Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, in addition to collecting nominations in 1995, 1996 and 1998, as well as a 2000 ALMA for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series. He also nabbed numerous other award nominations, including a 1995 SAG nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series and a 1997 Golden Satellite nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama.
While enjoying his television success, Elizondo continued to build his career. He took part in the redundant sequel Beverly Hills Cop III (1994), voiced Malcho on the CBS syndicated cartoon series “Disney’s Aladdin” (1994), appeared in Marshall’s ill-received comedy Exit to Eden (1994), acted in the Greg Kinnear-Laurie Metcalf comedy Dear God (1996, also helmed by Marshall) and was handed an ALMA nomination for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Crossover Role in a Feature Film for his performance in Robert Butler’s Turbulence (1997). A year later, he picked up an ALMA for Outstanding Actor in a Made-for-Television Movie or Mini-Series for his performance in Borrowed Hearts (1997). After being featured in the Marshall comedy The Other Sister (1999), alongside Juliette Lewis, he gave a memorable, scene-stealing performance as the new husband of Richard Gere’s former wife in the highly successful romantic comedy Runaway Bride (1999), directed by Marshall and starring Gere with Julia Roberts. The performance brought him a 2000 ALMA nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film.
Following the demise of “Chicago Hope,” Elizondo costarred in the short-lived CBS series “Kate Brasher” (2001) and made guest appearances in several TV shows, including “The West Wing” (2002), “Street Time” (2002), “Without a Trace” (2003) and “Miracles” (2003). He rejoined long-term buddy and collaborator Marshall for the blockbuster comedy The Princess Diaries (2001), playing Joe, the head of security for the monarch of a small country, and shared the screen with Raquel Welch in Tortilla Soup (2001), where he was nominated for an ALMA for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture. In 2004, he reprised his role of Joe for the successful installment The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, and netted an Imagen nomination for Best Supporting Actor – Film for his performance in the film. The same year, he also had a feature role in another Marshall’s film, Raising Helen. The actor returned to series TV as a regular in the 2004 sci-fi series “Century City,” portraying Martin Constable, but the show had a short life. Later that same year, until 2006, he had a recurring role in the cartoon series “Justice League,” as the voice of Lt. Kragger. He also played Cardinal Sebastian in the movie The Celestine Prophecy (2006).
Recently appearing with Jane Fonda and Lindsay Lohan in Marshall’s Georgia Rule (2007), the Golden Globe nominee is set to play Ben Padrow in the drama film Music Within (2007), starring Ron Livingston as Richard Pimentel, Melissa George as Christine and Michael Sheen as Art Honeyman. He will also appear with Don Leo in the Mike Newel-directed romance Love in the Time of Cholera (2007), opposite John Leguizamo, Liev Schreiber and Laura Harring. On the small screen, he had two pilot projects, including an Untitled Cynthia Cidre Pilot (2007).