Juliá, Raúl (1940-1994)

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Juliá, Raúl (1940-1994)

Raúl Juliá was a beloved stage and screen actor who was admired for his work on and off the screen. Due to his fine training and technique, he was one of the few Hispanic actors successful in transcending cultural stereotypes to win a diverse and interesting series of roles in Hollywood and abroad. Juliá broke onto the stage in New York in Hispanic community plays and through Joseph Papp's innovative casting in the New York Shakespeare Festival's production of Macbeth in 1966. He continued to appear in Shakespeare

Festival productions, and made his Broadway debut in 1968. In the early 1970s, Juliá broke into film, the medium that led to his greatest popularity.

Born Raúl Carlos Juliá y Acelay in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on March 9, 1940, into a relatively well-off family, Juliá began acting in school plays and, while studying law at the University of Puerto Rico, continued devoting much time to amateur productions. Juliá moved to New York to study acting in 1964 and shortly thereafter made his stage debut in a Spanish-language production of Calderón de la Barca's classic La vida es sueño (Life Is a Dream). Soon, Juliá was performing in the Hispanic neighborhoods of the city in small theaters and in the open air.

In 1966, famed producer Joseph Papp gave Juliá his first break, disregarding Juliá's ethnicity and casting him in Macbeth. Juliá subsequently performed in a number of Papp plays, including Shake-speare's Hamlet, and Hispanic community theater in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Juliá went on to be cast in Broadway roles, to receive rave reviews and four Tony nominations for work in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Where's Charley, Threepenny Opera, and Nine. His debut on Broadway was as the servant Chan in Jack Gelber's 1968 production of The Cuban Thing. A milestone in his career was the success of Papp's Two Gentlemen of Verona and Juliá's Tony-nominated portrayal of Porteus in this musical adaptation; the play moved from Central Park's Delacorte Theater to Broadway's St. James Theater.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, Juliá created a distinguished career as a film actor, playing a wide variety of roles from romantic detectives to evil villains. One of his most highly acclaimed parts was that of a revolutionary in the Academy Award-nominated Kiss of the Spiderwoman in 1985. Juliá also played some very popular offbeat roles in such highly commercial films as The Addams Family (1991) and its sequel, Addams Family Values (1993). Among his other noteworthy films are The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), One from the Heart (1982), Compromising Positions (1985), Tequila Sunrise (1988), Moon over Parador (1988), Tango Bar (1988), Romero (1989), The Rookie (1990), and Havana (1990).

When not acting on stage or screen, Juliá made frequent appearances on Sesame Street, and donated his services to the Hunger Project, an international organization whose goal it is to eradicate hunger by the year 2000. Juliá also worked with Hispanic community organizations, most notably the Hispanic Organization of Actors (HOLA). He died of a massive stroke on October 24, 1994.

—Nicolás Kanellos

Further Reading:

Mortiz, Charles, editor. Current Biography Yearbook. New York, Wilson, 1982.

Stefoff, Rebecca. Raul Julia. New York, Chelsea House, 1994.

Tardiff, Joseph T., and L. Mpho Mabunda, editors. Dictionary of Hispanic Biography. Detroit, Gale, 1996.

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Juliá, Raúl (1940-1994)

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