Leguizamo, John 1965(?)-

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Leguizamo, John 1965(?)-


Born July 22, 1965 (some sources say 1964), in Bogota, Colombia; moved to America when he was four; son of Alberto (a waiter and landlord) and Luz Leguizamo; married Yelba Osorio (divorced); married Justine Maurer, 1999; children: (with Maurer) Allegra Sky, Ryder Lee. Education: Studied at the Strasberg Theater Institute and H.B. Studio; attended New York University.


Agent—Don Buchwald and Associates, 10 E. 44th St., New York, NY 10017.


Writer, actor, comedian. Actor in plays, including: A Midsummer Night's Dream; La Puta Vida Trilogy (title means This Bitch of a Life), The Public, New York City, 1987; Parting Gestures, INTAR Theatre, New York City, 1987; She First Met Her Parents on the Subway, Pearl Theatre, New York City, 1990; Mambo Mouth (solo show), SubPlot, American Place Theatre, New York City, 1991; Spic-O-Rama (solo show) Goodman and Briar Street Theaters, Chicago, 1992; Freak: A Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography, Broadway, 1997; and Sexaholix … A Love Story (monologue), 2002.

Actor in movies: Mixed Blood, Cinevista, 1985; That Burning Question, 1988; Casualties of War, Columbia Tristar, 1989; Street Hunter, RCA/Columbia Pictures, 1990; Gentile alouette, 1990; Die Hard 2: Die Harder, 20th Century-Fox, 1990; Revenge, Columbia/New World, 1990; Out for Justice, Warner Bros., 1991; Hangin' with the Homeboys, New Line Cinema, 1991; Regarding Henry, Paramount, 1991; The Puerto Rican Mambo, Stardance Entertainment, 1992; Time Expired, Zeitgeist Films, 1992; Whispers in the Dark, Malofilm Group, 1992; Night Owl, Franco Productions, 1993; Carlito's Way, Universal Studios, 1993; Super Mario Brothers, Buena Vista, 1993; A Pyromaniac's Love Story, Buena Vista, 1995; To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, Universal Studios, 1995; Executive Decision, Warner Bros., 1996; The Fan, TriStar Pictures, 1996; Romeo + Juliet, 20th Century- Fox, 1996; A Brother's Kiss, First Look Pictures Releasing, 1997; The Pest, TriStar Pictures, 1997; Dr. Doolittle, Fox, 1998; Spawn, New Line Cinema, 1997; Frogs for Snakes, The Shooting Gallery International, 1998; The Split, Polygram, 1998; Summer of Sam, 1999; Joe the King, Trimark, 1999; King of the Jungle, Rosefunk Pictures/Bombo Sports, 2000; Moulin Rouge, Twentieth Century Fox, 2001; What's the Worst That Could Happen?, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2001; Collateral Damage, Warner Bros., 2002; Ice Age (animated film; voice of Sid), Fox, 2002; Zig Zag, Franchise Pictures, 2002; Empire, Bigel/Mailer Films, 2002; and Spun, Muse Productions, 2002.

Actor on television: Miami Vice, 1984; The Talent Pool; N.Y.P.D. Mounted (movie), 1991; Puerto Rican Mambo (Not a Musical), 1993; Spic-O-Rama, 1993; House of Buggin', Fox, 1995; Freak, 1998; Sexaholix, 2002; and Infamous, 2003.

Producer of films: House of Buggin (TV), Fox, 1995; The Pest, TriStar Pictures, 1997; Freak (TV), 1998; Joe the King, Trimark, 1999; and King of the Jungle, Rosefunk Pictures/Bombo Sports, 2000.


Obie Award for performance, Outer Critics Circle Award for outstanding achievement, CableACE Award, HBO, and Vanguardin Award, for writing and performance, all 1991, all for Mambo Mouth; CableACE Award, for Comedy Central's The Talent Pool, 1991; Hull-Warrior Award for best American play, Dramatists' Guild, Lucille Lortel Outstanding Achievement Award for best Broadway performance, and Drama Desk Award for best solo performance, all 1992, all for Spic-O-Rama; Theatre World Award for outstanding new talent, and four CableACE Awards, 1993, for Spic-O-Rama; two Emmy Award nominations, 1995, for House of Buggin'; DESHI Entertainment Award for diverse excellence in Hispanic sounds and images, 1996; Golden Globe nomination, 1996, for To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar; Nosotros Golden Eagle Award, 1996; Blockbuster Entertainment Award nomination, 1997, for Executive Decision; Tony Award nominations for best actor and best play, 1998, for Freak.



Mambo Mouth (solo show; produced in New York City, 1991), published as Mambo Mouth: A Savage Comedy, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1993.

Spic-O-Rama (solo show; produced in Chicago, 1992), published as Spic-O-Rama: A Dysfunctional Comedy, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1994.

(With David Bar Katz) Freak: A Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography (produced on Broadway, 1997), Riverhead Books (New York, NY), 1997.

Sexaholix … A Love Story, solo show produced at the Royale Theater in New York City, 2001.


Mambo Mouth, HBO, 1991.

Spic-O-Rama, HBO, 1993.

(Author of story) The Pest, 1997.

Freak, 1998.


Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas, and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends: My Life, Ecco (New York, NY), 2006.

The Works of John Leguizamo (contains Freak, Mambo Mouth, Spic-O-Rama, and Sexaholix), Harper (New York, NY), 2006.


John Leguizamo was born in Colombia and moved to New York City with his family at the age of four. He discovered his power to entertain while in high school, where his clowning often earned him a detention. He was advised by a perceptive math teacher to take acting lessons as a creative outlet. Leguizamo chose Sylvia Leigh's Showcase Theater from the yellow pages and paid for his lessons with money he earned himself. After graduating from high school, he auditioned at Juilliard, was rejected, but later received a telephone call from one of the Juilliard judges, encouraging him to continue with his acting career.

His first break came when Bonnie Timmerman, casting director for the television series Miami Vice, saw Leguizamo in a New York University student film. His performances on the series were so impressive that the show's writers had to find ways to bring him back after killing him off. Leguizamo also nabbed parts in independent films and played Puck in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. He did standup at New York comedy clubs during much of the 1980s. After returning from Thailand and the set of Casualties of War, he began writing and performing his own material.

Director Peter Askin saw him and worked with him on Mambo Mouth, which was performed in the Subplot, a space in the American Place Theatre in New York City. Critics admired Leguizamo's acting as well as his original material, and rave reviews helped the aspiring performer to pack houses every night. Before long, the show moved to the theater's main stage.

Leguizamo was inspired to write because of the absence of parts for Hispanics, but his characters in Mambo Mouth were viewed as stereotypes by some in the Hispanic community. The show's seven characters include talk-show host, Agamemnon, who gives advice on sex; Loco Louie, who carries a boom box and brags about his experience at a brothel; Pepe, who tries to convince the immigration man not to send him back; transvestite Manny the Fanny; and the Crossover King, who uses slides and lectures fellow Hispanics on how to skip Americanization and go straight to being Japanese businessmen.

Gerald Weales wrote in Commonweal that the night he saw the show, Leguizamo delighted the Hispanics in the audience "who respond to familiar gestures, intonations, words, and have the added advantage of Spanish throwaway lines which, I gather, were sometimes jokes about the more obtuse ‘white’ playgoers, to use his designation." Weales called the show "a fine showcase for Leguizamo's versatility as a performer and his talent as a writer."

Mambo Mouth garnered many awards, as did Leguizamo's next one-man show, Spic-O-Rama. Both were adapted for television and later published. In Spic-O-Rama Leguizamo plays both female and male members of the Gigante family. The sketches center on the marriage of Krazy Willie, a Desert Storm veteran. Other family members include aspiring actor Raffi, who bleaches his hair with the "holy water of St. Clorox" and believes he is the love child of Laurence Olivier; a mother who feeds Diet Coke to her baby; an alcoholic father; and nine-year-old Miggy, who prays for a new family. The show earned glowing reviews. New Leader critic Stefan Kanfer, praising the way its inspired images are scattered throughout the show, "like sequins on a dime store dress," called it "the season's most astonishing tour de force." Kanfer added that, in Spic-O-Rama the people of the barrio "have found their laureate, and he has found his subject. No point in prophesying a brilliant future for [Leguizamo] again; it has arrived." In New York Times, Frank Rich expressed similar praise for the show, noting that it demonstrated more mature writing than was evident in Leguizamo's earlier work. Rich particularly admired the sympathy that Leguizamo demonstrates for his characters, even as he highlights the absurdities of their behavior. In Spic-O-Rama," the critic concluded, "Mr. Leguizamo's huge presence and talent fill the theater so totally you feel he's everywhere at once."

Leguizamo appeared in many films and received acclaim for several roles. In Hangin' with the Homeboys, the story of four friends—two Puerto Rican, two black—cruising on a Friday night, Leguizamo played Johnny. Nation reviewer Stuart Klawans said that, "like the most appealing of its characters, the picture is good-natured, unpretentious, a little naive." Klawans said that Leguizamo portrayed his character "with remarkable sweetness and ease."

Notable roles in several other films followed, including Whispers in the Dark, a psycho-sexual thriller in which Leguizamo plays a painter who puts fantasies on canvas; Carlito's Way, in which Leguizamo plays Benny Blanco, a drug dealer in East Harlem who has succeeded Carlito (Al Pacino) while Carlito served time in jail; Casualties of War; Super Mario Brothers, based on the popular video game; and A Pyromaniac's Love Story.

Leguizamo attracted particular notice as female impersonator Chi Chi Rodriguez in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar. Chi Chi, Vida Boheme (Patrick Swayze) and Noxeema Jackson (Wesley Snipes) are on a cross-country ride to California and the national Drag Queen of the Year competition. "All three evince a casual comic mastery of the finger-snapping, eye-rolling, hip-swiveling elan of the modern male bitch princess," wrote Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly. Their Cadillac convertible breaks down in Snydersville, "where all the men are brutes or louts, and all the women worn out trying to survive," wrote Richard Corliss in Time. The residents do not suspect that the queens are actually men, and one of the town boys falls for Chi Chi. Ralph Novak wrote in People Weekly that "with his slight build and soft features, Leguizamo makes the most convincing ersatz female." He was nominated for a Golden Globe for the film.

In The Pest, Leguizamo plays Pestario Vargas, a smalltime Miami con artist "evidencing all the restraint of a Ritalin-deprived class clown who's just O.D.'d on sugar sandwiches," according to Joe Leydon in Variety. Pest evades mobsters and becomes the target of a German businessman who likes to hunt humans. There is a chase through Little Havana that ends on a cargo ship. "Along the way, Pest pretends to be an Orthodox rabbi, a Japanese businessman and an African-garbed black firebrand," wrote Leydon. "John Leguizamo tears through The Pest like something newly unleashed from the inkwell of a demented cartoonist."

Leguizamo plays Clown in Spawn, the film version of the comic book. "The story of Spawn reflects the ageless battle of good vs. evil, but told in a darker, more violent way than most comics," wrote David A. Kaplan in Newsweek. Leguizamo added business to his writing and acting interests when he and David Bar Katz formed Lower East Side Films in the late 1990s.

Through the 1990s and into the early 2000s, Leguizamo continued to expand his range of film roles. In Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing, he costars with a large ensemble cast, playing the womanizer Vinny, one of several neighbors in New York who are increasingly nervous about a serial killer in the city. The cult hit musical Moulin Rouge provided Leguizamo with the opportunity to play artist Toulouse Lautrec.

Leguizamo's Freak: A Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography opened on Broadway and was published simultaneously. Written with David Bar Katz, the show is about Leguizamo's childhood and young adult years in Queens. Lisa N. Johnston wrote in the Library Journal that he uses Spanish and street slang in relating family anecdotes, "always emphasizing the struggles and emotions of an immigrant Latino family." Johnston called the result "entertaining and poignant."

Leguizamo draws on this material again in his book, Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas, and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends. Described by Library Journal contributor Richard A. Dickey as a book "as singular as the man itself," it retells the actor's life story from his birth in Colombia and upbringing in New York to his struggles to make it in a Hollywoood where good parts for Latinos were scarce. He writes affectionately and honestly about his family, friends, and neighbors, and provides an insider's look at the less glamorous sides of the movie business. Though a writer for Kirkus Reviews found the book less funny than Leguizamo's stage shows, others gave it high ratings. Dickey praised its honesty and directness as well as its humor. The book, according to a contributor to Publishers Weekly, is "brash" and "hilarious."



Contemporary Hispanic Biography, Volume 3, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 2003.

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1994.

Dictionary of Hispanic Biography, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1996.


Commonweal, September 27, 1991, Gerald Weales, review of Mambo Mouth, pp. 549-550.

Entertainment Weekly, March 18, 1994, Vanessa V. Friedman, review of Spic-O-Rama, p. 94; September 8, 1995, Owen Gleiberman, review of To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, pp. 49-51; October 6, 1995, Dave Karger, "Country Comforts," p. 14; August 15, 1997, Owen Gleiberman, review of Spawn, p. 46; November 3, 2006, Neil Drumming, review of Deep Dish and Thin Slices of Life, p. 81.

Hispanic, November, 1997, Christine Granados, review of Freak: A Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography, p. 78.

Interview, September, 1995, Douglas Carter Beane, "John Leguizamo: He's Got Legz," p. 78.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2006, review of Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas, and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends: My Life, p. 888.

Library Journal, August, 1993, Howard E. Miller, review of Mambo Mouth: A Savage Comedy, p. 104; March 1, 1994, J. Sara Paulk, review of Spic-O-Rama, p. 88; October 15, 1997, Lisa N. Johnston, review of Freak: A Semi-Demi-Quasi-Pseudo Autobiography, p. 63; November 1, 2006, Richard A. Dickey, review of Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas, and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends, p. 79.

Nation, June 24, 1991, Stuart Klawans, review of Hangin' with the Homeboys, p. 863.

New Leader, March 11, 1991, Stefan Kanfer, review of Mambo Mouth, p. 23; November 2, 1992, Stefan Kanfer, review of Spic-O-Rama, p. 22.

Newsweek, August 4, 1997, David A. Kaplan, review of Spawn, pp. 68-69.

New York Times, October 28, 1992, Frank Rich, review of Spic-O-Rama.

People Weekly, September 11, 1995, Lisa Russell, "Dress for Success," p. 106; September 25, 1995, Ralph Novak, review of To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, pp. 21-22; October 9, 1995, Shelley Levitt, "But He's No Julie Newmar: Comic John Leguizamo Cross-dresses for Success in ‘Wong Foo,’" p. 99; August 18, 1997, Leah Rozen, review of Spawn, p. 21.

Publishers Weekly, July 12, 1993, review of Mambo Mouth, p. 76; September 25, 2006, review of Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas, and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends, p. 60.

Time, September 18, 1995, Richard Corliss, review of To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, p. 108.

Variety, February 10, 1997, Joe Leydon, review of The Pest, p. 64; June 2, 1997, Dennis Harvey, review of Freak, p. 65.