The Argentine is the biggest Spanish-language actor yet to make the move to Hollywood.
If you don’t speak Spanish, it’s unlikely that you’ve heard of Ricardo Darín. But if you’re one of the 500 million-odd people who do — especially if you’re from Argentina —you probably have. Along with Spain (where Darín also works), Argentina is the most prolific producer of high-quality movies in the Spanish-speaking world, and a large part of it features señor Ricardo. He stars in one blockbuster per year, sometimes two, largely thanks to his incredible ability to bring any twist on the middle-class everyman to life. The success of these movies is virtually guaranteed by his mere presence, as he’s known to be quite selective, despite his productivity. Thus, his name is seen as a strong mark of quality that sells at least as many tickets as his performances themselves. In fact, there’s even a meta-film starring Darín, Delirium, about a group of film students whose get-rich-quick scheme is to… Make a movie starring Darín. Yep.
It’s not at all a stretch to say that Ricardo Darín is the most famous Spanish-language actor who has yet to dip his feet into Hollywood productions — in fact, he’s yet to star in an English-speaking film, period. While other superstars of Iberoamerican cinema, such as Gael García Bernal, Javier Bardem, and Penélope Cruz made the move relatively early in their careers, Darín, at 61 and with a 20-year-long career as a leading man on the silver screen, seems perfectly happy to stick to what he’s doing.
He explained his reasons in a now-famous interview back in 2013. It turns out that if he wanted to, he could have easily broken into Hollywood: in 2004, he was offered a role in the Denzel Washington blockbuster Man of Fire. When he refused, insulted that they’d asked him to play the stereotypical Latin American drug dealer, they wouldn’t take no for an answer, offering more and more money, believing that he’d eventually give in. He did not.
Darín adds to this strong statement, noting that he’s content with his career right now and feels no need to seek validation or money from Hollywood. When you’ve got a couple hundred million people to whom you’re a household name, what’s another couple hundred million more? Sure, Argentine films may not gross billions, but you can bet Darín still lives comfortably off his share of the profits from movies like Wild Tales ($23 million) and Nine Queens ($11 million).
His genesis to stardom began in domestic television comedies and theatre, with sporadic movie roles throughout the 80s and 90s. In 1998, he finally came to national attention as a leading man with his role in The Lighthouse. Since then, he’s been a prolific feature in hit after hit, starring in more than 25 movies. From the aforementioned Nine Queens (2000), a thrilling, internationally successful heist film so good it was remade in both Hollywood and Bollywood, to the Oscar-winning The Secret in Their Eyes (2009), all the way to the present day with An Unexpected Love (2018), he has consistently managed to attach his name to far more great movies than flops.
For an actor so successful in his own language, Hollywood seems like the final frontier. But then again, when you’ve already played a legendary slum priest, a husband on the run from a dictatorship, an ambulance-chasing lawyer, the father of a struggling intersex teen, and the President of Argentina, it’s up to them to come to you with an interesting enough role. So far, they clearly haven’t managed it. Darín is in no hurry, so they’re going to need to do a whole lot better than a tired, bigoted stereotype in an action movie.
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