A dynamic actor who may claim to mumble, but is always powerful on the screen, Benicio Del Toro (1967-) was born on this day in Santurce, Puerto Rico. Both his parents were lawyers and his mother died of hepatitis when Del Toro was only nine.
"People are people everywhere. Human beings can adapt to anything," he said of the tragedy. Growing up, he called basketball, "my sanctuary, my oasis," then discovered acting, and studied at New York City's distinguished Stella Adler Conservatory.
"I get quite embarrassed with my acting when I see it on the screen. I would imagine with a film that's my own, I'd be really embarrassed and have to leave the country," the humble actor once admitted.
Most admit Del Toro is a major scene-stealer.
His first big break was a guest shot on television's Miami Vice. He then scored his breakthrough role as Fred Fenster in The Usual Suspects (1995). In the tradition of Robert DeNiro, the method actor gained over 40 pounds to play Oscar Zeta Acosta in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) by "eating chairs, tables, buildings and bridges. But what really pushed the balance was donuts."
Del Toro's commitment to his craft is obvious. "I have to feel passionate about the story," explained Del Toro. His performance as Mexican policeman Javier Rodriguez in the gritty drama Traffic (2001) led him to the Best Supporting Actor Oscar and Golden Globe Award. His role in 21 Grams (2004) as the ex-con turned born-again Christian was brilliant.
"It's what I always dreamed my life as an actor might become, but I never believed it would happen," he said. In 2001, Del Toro was named Hispanic of the Year by Hispanic magazine and International Man of the Year by GQ Magazine.
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