Interviews


Andy Garcia


Occupation: Actor
Date of Birth: April 12, 1956
Place of Birth: Havana, Cuba
Sign: Sun in Aries, Moon in Taurus
Relations: Wife: Maria Victoria; kids: Dominik, Daniella, Alessandra
Education: Florida International University

 

WHEN Andy Garcia was born in Havana, Cuba, he had an unusual growth on his shoulder. It turned out to be a twin that hadn't fully developed. "They just snipped it off, apparently," says Garcia. Five years later, Castro came to power in Cuba, and Garcia's family fled to Miami Beach. He often imagines the childhood he would have had in Havana, and he sees the over three decades he has spent in America as time in exilehe was removed unwillingly and is not about to let himself be cut off from his memories of Cuba. "There is nothing missing in my life except Cuba," he says.

Garcia's early childhood in Miami Beach was punctuated by fisticuffs. Speaking little English, Garcia defended himself against insults, real and imagined. "I hit them just to be safe," Garcia says. His conservative Catholic family struggled for a while in menial jobs, a far cry from the relative affluence they enjoyed in Cuba. Not content to merely eke out an existence, Garcia's father, Rene, built a multi-million-dollar fragrance import company from scratch. In high school, Garcia's good looks and athletic ability made him a popular student, but his senior year brought a bout of mononucleosis and hepatitis, keeping him bedridden and forcing him to sit out a promising basketball season. It was during this convalescence that the acting bug hit him. "From then on, acting was like a hunger in the pit of my stomach," Garcia says.

After graduation, Garcia enrolled in theater classes at Florida International University. He next made the obligatory trip west, where he headed out on cattle calls, waited tables, and loaded trucks. After a brief attempt at stand-up comedy, he landed the part of a gang member on the first episode of Hill Street Blues, and in 1985, he appeared in The Mean Season. But it was his role as a cocaine kingpin in Hal Ashby's 8 Million Ways To Die that set his career in motion. Director Brian De Palma noticed his charged performance and wanted to cast him as heavy Frank Nizzi in The Untouchables, but Garcia feared being typecast and convinced De Palma to let him have the part of earnest F.B.I. agent George Stone. A tailor-made lead role in the Mike Figgis thriller Internal Affairs followed, and a 1990 Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance as the illegitimate nephew of Don Corleone in The Godfather Part III secured international recognition.

During his rise to stardom, Garcia hasn't lived according to either the "Latin lover" or the "Hollywood debauchery" stereotypes. He's been married to Maria Victoria (whom everyone calls Marivi), a fellow Cuban émigré, since 1982, and vigorously guards her privacy and that of their three daughters, Dominik, Daniella, and Alessandra. He still clings to old-fashioned values; he stands when a woman enters the room, and refuses to do nude scenes (he prefers to let romance bloom in viewers' imaginations). He once walked out of an audition after he was told to take his shirt off. Garcia has shunned the Hollywood scene, and instead spends his off-time with his family at residences in the San Fernando Valley and Florida. The man doesn't even have a publicist.

Garcia has also resisted roles that might bring him mega-star status; he insists that quality is his main concern, and while he faltered slightly with Jennifer 8 and Hero, he won raves for his performance as a saint-like husband to Meg Ryan's alcoholic wife in 1994's When a Man Loves a Woman. In 1995, Garcia headlined the box-office duds Things To Do in Denver When You're Dead and Steal Big, Steal Little (he played twins in the latter). He fared a bit better with his star turn in Sidney Lumet's Night Falls on Manhattan (1997), in which he played an assistant D.A. assigned to prosecute a drug dealer responsible for the shooting of his police-detective father. Garcia was on the opposite side of the law in his follow-on role, that of Hoodlum's organized-crime czar Lucky Luciano. He next portrayed Spanish poet-playwright Federico Garcia Lorca in the elegiac film The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca; and Desperate Measures witnessed him back in police mode, as a San Francisco detective chasing an escaped mass murderer (played by Michael Keaton) who just so happens to be a perfect bone-marrow match for his desperately ill son.

The allure of Cuba continues to tug at Garcia. He says he has an "emotional boycott" against returning while Castro is still in power, but Cuban influence still permeates his life and work. Garcia produced and directed Cachao: Like His Rhythm There Is No Other, a tribute to the Cuban mambo artist whose record Master Sessions Volume I Garcia also produced. His next labor of love is The Lost City, an epic about a young man forced to leave his homeland amid revolution. The screenplay is by Cuban novelist Guillermo Cabrera Infante, and Garcia will star and direct. "In a way it's a catharsis, to try and heal the wounds of not being able to grow up in the country I was born in. So I am trying to recreate it, to relive the fantasy."

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