Benicio Del Toro: an Oscar winner with a taste for the dark and bizarre

19th May 2015, Comments 0 comments

Benicio Del Toro, who plays a shadowy agent looking for revenge in the well-received drug war thriller "Sicario" at Cannes, is an Oscar winning actor who has jumped from dark to odd-ball characters.

His latest performance as a brooding and shadowy figure operating across the US-Mexico border is familiar territory for Del Toro, who was often cast as bad boys and drug dealers when he started out in 1980s shows like "Miami Vice".

Born in Puerto Rico in 1967, Del Toro -- full name Benicio Monserrate Rafael Del Toro Sanchez -- moved to the United States at the age of nine when his mother died.

He studied commerce before deciding, secretly, to change to acting, winning a scholarship to the prestigious Stella Adler Conservatory in LA.

He became the youngest-ever actor to play a henchman in a James Bond film in 1989's "Licence to Kill" and took a string of cameo roles until his breakthrough performance as a mumbling mobster in cult favourite "The Usual Suspects" in 1995.

He followed that with another bizarre turn, as the fat, drug-crazed side-kick to Hunter S. Thompson in 1998's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas".

There followed a run of more mainstream fare that eventually saw Del Toro bag an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role as a Mexican border cop in "Traffic" in 2001 -- despite his dialogue being almost exclusively in Spanish.

Del Toro used the momentum of his Oscar to secure a series of plum roles in serious and cult dramas such as "Sin City", "21 Grams" and "The Pledge".

In 2008, he took the title role in "Che", the two-part epic story of revolutionary Che Guevara's life. It won him the best actor award at that year's Cannes Film Festival.

More recently, the actor has popped up in more eccentric turns in P.T. Anderson's "Inherent Vice" and a couple of cameos in Marvel action films "Thor: The Dark World" and "Guardians of the Galaxy".

© 2015 AFP

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