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Benjamin Bratt Biography


Home > Actors > B > Bratt, Benjamin > Biography


Birth Name: Benjamin Bratt
Born: 12/16/1963
Birth Place: San Francisco, California, USA


Bratt was born Dec. 16, 1963. His paternal grandfather was Broadway actor George Bratt, but the grandson was raised in San Francisco, CA, mainly by his mother, a Peruvian-born nurse and Native American activist. His metalworker father was less a figure in Bratt's younger days, though he was the one who encouraged his son to try out for a school play at Lowell High School where Bratt was a member of the forensic society. It was not until attending UC Santa Barbara, that he began to develop a serious interest in acting. He was cast in his first television gig while studying at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, cutting his masters program short to act full-time. His first two pilots - "Juarez" and "Lovers, Partners & Spies" - did not sell, but he was on the air by 1988 on the short-lived "Knightwatch" (ABC), portraying an ex-gang leader who had become the leader of an anti-crime patrol loosely based on New York City's Guardian Angels. He followed with another short-lived series, Dick Wolf's "Nasty Boys" (NBC, 1990).

Bratt's early work generally consisted of supporting roles as Latinos or Native Americans, and this was the case for his feature film debut in "Bright Angel" (1990) and the bigger hit, "Chains of Gold" (1990), where he portrayed a vicious drug dealer who keeps young Joey Lawrence in a cage in order to lure hero John Travolta to his den. He raised his profile further with roles in "One Good Cop" (1991), "Bound by Honor" (1993), and the Sylvester Stallone actioner "Demolition Man" (1993). Bratt garnered a lead in Taylor Hackford's East L.A. neighborhood chronicle "Blood In, Blood Out" but found a much wider audience for his supporting role as a Native American ranger doomed in his attempt to help Meryl Streep in "The River Wild" (2004) and an American officer sent by the CIA to infiltrate the Colombian countryside in the Tom Clancy-based "Clear and Present Danger" (2004). The increased exposure led to a lead in the ABC miniseries "James A. Michener's Texas" (1995), and he developed his role as the proud, impatient Mexican Benito Garza as far as the subject material allowed.

In 1995, Bratt landed what would become one of the best-known roles of his career, joining the hit NBC series "Law & Order" in its sixth season. His character Reynaldo 'Rey' Curtis shared Bratt's Latino-Indian and German background, and his family-oriented, youthful conservatism provided a marked contrast to the older, more liberal and cynical Det. Lenny Briscoe (Jerry Orbach). Bratt's insertion into the long-running series went smoothly, and audiences stuck by Rey even when he fell into the arms of another woman. The actor returned to film as the star and co-producer of "Follow Me Home" (1997), his brother Peter Bratt's acclaimed filmmaking effort that explored issues of race and identity through four ethnically diverse bohemians who embark on a road trip to the nation's capital. The film found an enthusiastic reception at the San Francisco International Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival. In 1998 and 1999, Bratt's role on "Law & Order" earned him awards for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series from American Latino Media Arts, and in 1999, when he decided to leave the series, he went out on a high note with a Best Supporting Actor Emmy nomination and favorite American actress Julia Roberts on his arm.

While the couple's romance became an unrelenting target of Hollywood paparazzi, Bratt focused on resuming his film career and appeared in a number of significant films in 2000, including the Oscar nominee for Best Picture, Steven Soderbergh's "Traffic," in which he portrayed the leader of a powerful Mexican drug cartel. On the other side of the law and exploring his range with comedy, Bratt also co-starred in "Miss Congeniality" as the partner of an FBI agent who goes undercover as a beauty pageant contestant (Sandra Bullock). His less-successful efforts that year also included the sci-fi offering "Red Planet" (2000) and the critically lambasted Madonna vehicle "The Next Best Thing" (2000). Bratt's relationship with Julia Roberts ended in the spring of 2001 amid a flurry of media speculation, with the actor offering a dignified and tasteful explanation that "I've moved on." He moved on in his career, as well, giving an incredible performance in John Leguizamo's directorial debut "Pinero" (2001), a biopic of important New York literary figure Miguel Pinero, which earned Bratt an Award for Outstanding Actor from the American Latino Media Arts Awards.

In 2002, Bratt married his "Pinero" co-star Talisa Soto and starred in the panned college-set thriller "Abandon" (2002), playing opposite Katie Holmes as a detective investigating the disappearance of her boyfriend. The indie character-based drama "The Woodsman" (2004) earned substantially more critical accolades including multiple Independent Spirit Awards and a string of successful festival screenings. Bratt gave a strong supporting performance in the film as an understanding relative of a newly released ex-convict (Kevin Bacon) adjusting to life on the outside. His next high-profile film appearance was in the lackluster comic book adaptation "Catwoman" (2004), in which Bratt demonstrated a healthy dose of leading man charm and an enviable lack of ego that allowed him to be physically dominated on screen by Halle Berry and villainous Sharon Stone. Bratt had a small role as a suave movie star in the quirky indie comedy "Thumbsucker" (2005) and followed up with the lead in the big budget WWII picture "The Great Raid" (2005), which unfortunately was a financial flop.

The folks at NBC apparently admired Bratt's performance as an Army Lieutenant, so promptly cast him to play a career military man and top-ranking Pentagon official alongside Dennis Hopper in the series "E-Ring" (NBC, 2005-06). Bratt resumed his film career by portraying one point of the infamous lovers' triangle in "Love in the Time of Cholera" (2007), a film adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez' book, which most critics agreed reduced the grand story to an overwrought melodrama. On the small screen, Bratt starred as a scientist on a mission to eradicate a deadly virus from space in the Michael Crichton-based "The Andromeda Strain" (2008), which garnered excellent ratings and an Outstanding Miniseries Emmy Award nomination for the A&E network. Bratt experienced continued success in television with A&E's series "The Cleaner" (2008-09), where he starred as a reformed drug addict dedicated to helping others free themselves from addiction. Despite the show's critical acclaim, "The Cleaner" failed to attract a sufficiently large enough audience and was cancelled after two seasons. For such an exceedingly good-looking guy, he also made the unusual move of voicing a comically odd-looking character in the CGI-animated hit "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" (2009), portraying Manny, a courageous cameraman from Central America with a surprising number of useful skills.

Bratt reprised Det. Rey Curtis for a 2009 episode of "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010), before landing a special guest-starring role as Dr. Jake Reilly on "Private Practice" (ABC, 2007- ), which turned into a regular series gig in 2011. Meanwhile, Bratt took a rare turn into comedic territory with occasional appearances on "Modern Family" (ABC, 2009- ), where he played Manny Delgado's absentee father and Gloria's ex-husband. Returning to the realm of animation, Bratt played dubious restaurant owner Eduardo in the massively successful hit sequel "Despicable Me 2" (2013) and had a second turn as Manny in the eagerly awaited "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" (2013).