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Luis Guzman Biography

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Birth Name: Luis Guzman
Born: 08/28/1956
Birth Place: Cayey, Puerto Rico, USA

Born on Aug. 28, 1956 in Puerto Rico, Guzman grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where he began his acting career in a high school production of "Bye Bye Birdie." Bitten by the bug, he went on to appear in street theater and local productions while working as a social worker at the Henry Street Settlement House in downtown Manhattan. Also at that time, he became active in local political causes and used street theater as a means of spreading the word on issues that affected the community. Eventually, he made his film debut with a prominent role in Bette Gordon's independent feature, "Variety" (1983), a character drama that focused on a woman's decent into the porn industry. From there, he began to develop a viable career; though initially he was cast to play nameless heavies and thugs, thanks to his dark, brooding look that actually defied his amiable nature. After a guest spot on "Miami Vice" (NBC, 1984-1990), Guzman began appearing in numerous small parts, playing bad guys in films like "Crocodile Dundee II" (1988) and "Family Business" (1989), while branching out to the other side of the law in Sidney Lumet's crime drama, "Q&A" (1990).

Guzman continued as a low-key supporting player in "The Hard Way" (1991) and "McBain" (1991), while continuing to make appearances on shows like "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990- ), "Homicide: Life on the Street" (NBC, 1993-99) and "NYPD Blue" (ABC, 1993-2005). He went against type as the friend and coworker of a struggling utility worker (Matt Dillon) reunited with his ex-wife (Annabelle Sciorra) in "Mr. Wonderful" (1993). Finally getting his chance to shine, Guzman had a significant supporting role as the right-hand man of a former criminal (Al Pacino) struggling to go straight in Brian De Palma's gripping drama, "Carlito's Way" (1993). After playing a man who smuggles Central Americans to work in U.S. sweatshops in "The Cowboy Way" (1994), he was in a slew of under-the-radar features like "Lotto Land" (1995), "The Substitute" (1996) and "Stonewall" (1996). Equally adept at playing comedy as well as portraying menacing street characters, Guzman quickly became one of Hollywood's most in-demand character actors. He attracted the attention of two leading directors, Steven Soderbergh and Paul Thomas Anderson, both of whom added him to their stable of actors as part of both directors' unofficial "repertoire companies."

Anderson was the first to tap Guzman, casting him as a club owner in the director's breakthrough movie, "Boogie Nights" (1997). Soderbergh next cast him in a small, but memorable role as a gay prisoner who has no choice but to help a jailed bank robber (George Clooney) escape from prison in "Out of Sight" (1998). In Soderbergh's "The Limey" (1999), Guzman played the friend of a murdered young woman (Melissa George) whose formerly criminal father (Terrence Stamp) travels from England to Los Angeles to find her killer (Peter Fonda). After a supporting role as a detective in the serial killer drama "The Bone Collector" (1999), he played a narcotics agent alongside Don Cheadle in "Traffic" (2000), Soderbergh's masterful crime epic about the futility of the war on drugs. Guzman won a Screen Actors Guild award for his part of the film's excellent ensemble cast. Following another small role in Anderson's strange, but compelling drama "Magnolia" (1999), Guzman was seen as Jacopo in the modest adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' "The Count of Monte Cristo" (2002). Meanwhile, he had a regular role as Raoul "El Cid" Hernandez, the leader of the Latino prison gang on the brutal series "Oz" (HBO, 1997-2003).

After establishing himself as a reliable and hard-working character actor, Guzman made a few uncharacteristic missteps, starting with an appearance in the dreadful Eddie Murphy space comedy, "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" (2003), which he followed with the inexplicable "Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd" (2003). Both died ignominious deaths at the box office, though Guzman seemed to suffer no permanent damage to his career. In "Anger Management" (2003), Guzman appeared as a member of a group therapy session who helps unleash Adam Sandler's hidden rage. After playing a corrupt cop who joins a scam operation in "Confidence" (2003), a little-seen crime drama with Edward Burns and Rachel Weisz, Guzman joined Jim Carrey in "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" (2004), adapted from the popular children's novels. Trying his luck for the first time as the lead in a sitcom, he starred in "Luis" (Fox, 2003), playing a husband and father who owns a donut shop in Spanish Harlem. The series failed to attract much of an audience and was canceled after only four episodes.

In the low-budget slice-of-life comedy "Waiting" (2005), about a waiter (Justin Long) who rues his dead-end life, Guzman played a cook at a restaurant who likes to do disgusting things to himself and the food. After going back to the well with "Carlito's Way: Rise to Power" (2005), he had small parts in "Fast Food Nation" (2006) and "School for Scoundrels" (2006). Returning to series television, he was the owner of a rundown motel in "John From Cincinnati" (HBO, 2007), a strange noir sports drama with supernatural elements from the twisted mind of David Milch. After playing yet another detective in Renny Harlin's "Cleaner" (2007), he was one of several voice actors in the live action comedy "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" (2008), which he followed with a supporting role in the family drama "Nothing Like the Holidays" (2008). He next co-starred in "The Taking of Pelham 123" (2009), playing one of several armed hijackers led by an ex-con (John Travolta) who take over a subway train.