Matacena, Orestes

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Born August 29, in Cuba; immigrated to United States as a teenager; son of Rafael and Aracelli Matacena; children: Lawrence Rafael.


Agent—Zanuck, Passon & Pace, 13317 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423; (commercials) Flick Agency, 9057 Nemo St., Suite A, West Hollywood, CA 90069. E-mail—[email protected].


Actor, producer, director, and writer. Actor in films, including (as Jose) Los gusanos (also known as The Worms), 1978; (as title role) Guaguasi, 1979; (as "psycho killer" man) Fatal Encounter, 1981; (as train station clerk) Lifted, 1988; (as customs agent) Tropical Snow (also known as Nieve tropical), 1989; (as Spanish interpreter, Roberto) Judgement (also known as Hitz), Vidmark Entertainment, 1989; (as Victor Corsini) Diggstown (also known as Midnight Sting), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1992; (as Army kidnapper commander) Soldier's Fortune (also known as Soldiers of Fortune), Republic Pictures, 1992; (as Niko) The Mask, New Line Cinema, 1994; (as Claudio) Azúcar amarga (also known as Bitter Sugar), First Look Pictures Releasing, 1996; (as Spanish dignitary) Wild Wild West, Warner Bros., 1999; (as General Ivan Kragov) Last Stand (also known as City of Fear), Blockbuster Video, 2000; (as Tito) Sticks, 2001; (as Mary's father) sexgunsmoney@20, 2002; and (as Reverend Murphy) Girl in 3D, 2003.

Director and producer of films, including (and music and sound editor) Fatal Encounter, 1981; Tainted, 1988; (and editor and sound editor) Cuba Libre, 1999; and (and editor and sound editor) sexgunsmoney@20, 2002. Assistant editor of the film Los gusanos, 1978; director of documentary film Theatre in the Parks, and of music videos, including "De punta a punta" for Alvaro Torres.

Actor in television movies, including (as Versace man) A Kiss to Die For (also known as Those Bedroom Eyes), National Broadcasting Company (NBC), 1993; (as Hector Hernandez) Greyhounds, Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), 1994; and (as Gortman) Motorcycle Gang, Showtime, 1994. Guest star on television series, including Mann & Machine; Soldier of Fortune, Inc.; Action; Saturday Night Live; Corte Tropical and (as Burro) The Wild Thornberrys. Regular on variety program Sabado gigante and comedy program Salvese quien pueda. Actor in television pilot 3x2, and (as Victor Menocal) in The Take, 1990.

Actor in stage productions, including (as the architect) The Architect and the Emperor of Assyria, Dume Company, New York, NY, c. 1974; (as commando) Los gusanos, CCC Theatre Company, New York, NY, c. 1975; (as Count Cenci) The Life and Time of the Cencis, La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, New York, NY; (as rapist) The Grab Bag, Astor Place Theatre, New York, NY; (as a dog) Tales to Be Told, Stage 73, New York; (as Farmer Joe) Journey to Bahia, and (as a friend) The Lazy Executive, both Henry Street Playhouse, New York, NY; (as landholder) Joan of the Americas, (as effeminate friend) Mephistopheles, (as wise guy) Pachencho's Wake, and (as Midget) Three Grotesques by Bunuel, all New York Theatre of the Americas, New York, NY; (as bellboy) Fork Poking, CCC Theatre Company; and (as a fireman) The Bald Soprano, (as the groom) The Chick's Wedding, and (as Jerry) The Zoo Story, all Theatre 66, Florida. Producer of stage production The Grab Bag, Astor Place Theatre, New York, NY; director of Cuba Libre (staged reading) and The Wedding Dress. Founder, New York Theater of the Americas, New York; CCC Company, New York; and Theater 66 Company, Florida.


Commended by members of U.S. Congress, California State Senate, City of Los Angeles, Office of City Attorney of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Police Department, California Legislative Assembly, and Community of Los Angeles Mid-Valley Community Police Council, 1992, for chasing down a burglar.



(With Clara Hernandez and Camilo Vila) Los gusanos, 1978.

(With Clara Hernandez and Jorge Ulla) Guaguasi, 1979.

Fatal Encounter, 1981.

Tainted, 1988.

(With Pelayo García and Leon Ichaso) Azúcar amarga (also known as Bitter Sugar), First Look Pictures Releasing, 1996.

Cuba Libre (based on his stage play), 1999.

sexgunsmoney0ommat;20, 2002.

Also author of stage plays Cuba Libre, The Gym, and My Little Meatball.


Cuban emigré Orestes Matacena originally planned to be a plantation owner, like his father, but the rise of Communist leader Fidel Castro in the late 1950s made this impossible. Matacena fought with the anti-Communist resistance for a time, but eventually he abandoned the struggle and came to the United States, speaking no English and without any money. He worked at odd jobs in Florida for a few years, while also starting a small theater company there—first in his living room, and then in an actual playhouse. Soon he moved to New York to try his luck in the theater in that city. Within four months of his arrival, he produced and acted in an off-Broadway play.

Matacena's most widely known work may be the film Bitter Sugar, a political romance that exposes the dark side of Castro's Cuba. An up-and-coming young man (played by One Life to Live's Rene Lavan) who truly believes in the promise of a socialist utopia has his eyes opened to the regime's failures in part through his relationship with a young woman who yearns to escape Cuba for Miami. Matacena's coauthor and the film's director, Leon Ichasco, is also a Cuban exile, as are the film's stars, and Ichasco used his own family's story as inspiration for the script. "It is unusual to encounter a film this intently felt by the people who made it," Jeff Millar noted in the Houston Chronicle.



Houston Chronicle, June 7, 1997, Jeff Millar, review of Bitter Sugar, p. 10.

People, April 2, 1990, David Hiltbrand, review of The Take, p. 9.

San Francisco Chronicle, March 21, 1997, Edward Guthmann, review of Bitter Sugar, section C, p. 3.

Variety, October 27, 1982, review of Guaguasi, pp. 22-23; May 15, 1985, review of Tainted, p. 26; July 26, 1989, review of Tainted, p. 16; March 28, 1990, review of The Take, p. 97.

Wall Street Journal, December 10, 1996, Joe Morgenstern, review of Bitter Sugar, section A, p. 20.


Internet Movie Database, (July 8, 2003).

Orestes Matacena Home Page, (July 17, 2003).*