One of these days, I’ve got to actually acquire John Leguizamo’s graphic novel autobiography. (Which you can help me with by contributing to my Patreon or Ko-fi!) If you’re only going to read one person’s take on him, obviously you should read his and not mine. I’ll probably read the other one at some point, the non-graphic novel one. Leguizamo is a fascinating guy, and I’d really love to see him on Finding Your Roots one of these days. I wonder if his multiple tales about his ancestry are due to genuine uncertainty on his part.
It’s hardly shocking that Leguizamo got his start in TV on Miami Vice. He’s Colombian. It was the ’80s. You’ve got to figure Miami Vice went through a lot of guys of vague Central and South American heritage during its run. Particularly Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Colombians, all things considered. He’d already done one movie—about drugs. The ’80s were full of movies and TV shows about Colombian drug runners, because cocaine.
Leguizamo managed to go beyond roles like “Liquor Store Gunman” in Regarding Henry. Alas, his break-out role was as Luigi Mario. Now, I have not seen Super Mario Brothers. Though my goodness but there were choices made on that, not least that the lead role is canonically named Mario Mario. Still, the point is that it was a major role, even if it was in a critical and financial flop, and it brought him to wider attention. Long term, that’s great for his career; come to that, even if it didn’t give him further success, at least he’d have cult resonance.
And he’s got a lot of cult resonance. A couple of years after Mario Brothers, there was To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. In which he is fabulous. I strongly suspect it’s also what got him cast in Romeo + Juliet, which is very much on the list of “I like it more than most people.” And of course that’s what got him cast as Toulouse-Lautrec in Moulin Rouge! He’s in Spawn and Summer of Sam. He’s in a lot of movies that are brought up in conversation as “oh, yeah, that exists.”
He did not get put on the schedule to coincide with the release of Encanto this week. It is merely happy coincidence—people mostly get put on the schedule when I say, for whatever reason, “Oh, yeah, I should write about [person],” and it takes so long for me to get to them on the schedule (now booked out into 2023) that I can seldom say exactly what makes me think about them. Possibly a viewing of Wong Foo or a conversation with a friend over a year ago; I have no idea now. Still, it is happy coincidence, and I’m glad he’s got a movie coming out that actually appeals to me.