Date of Birth : Mar 9th 1940
Puerto Rican actor whose career included dramatic, comic, and musical roles in theater, film, and television. Juliá discovered acting early in his academic career, beginning with a role in first grade. “From then on, that was it,” he told Cigar Aficionado magazine in 1993. “I knew there was something special about the theater for me, something beyond the regular reality, something that I could get into and transcend and become something other than myself.” He was deeply involved in drama and art clubs in his high school years, and even played the role of Rodrigo in Othello at a local drama production. For a while he was also a game show host and teen program host on Puerto Rican television.
Upon graduation from college, Juliá was faced with a difficult choice between his parents’ wishes and his own. They wanted him to remain in Puerto Rico and continue on to law school. They also pointed out that his uncles were the owners of a mental hospital, and that he could have guaranteed success as a doctor. He, however, wanted to pursue an acting career. Finally, like so many Puerto Ricans and aspiring actors, he left for New York City in 1964. He asked his parents only to finance the tuition fees of any acting classes he might take, while he would support himself through various odd jobs, including selling fountain pens and serving as a telemarketer. Juliá began studying drama with Wynn Handman. He soon found work in off-Broadway theater and at open air performances in New York’s Central Park.
In 1966, Juliá began working with theater impresario Joseph Papp and the New York Shakespeare Festival. He credited his recently-developed sales skills and sheer persistence with convincing Papp—after several tries—of allowing him to do Shakespearean roles, which he considered the epitome of acting roles. His Shakespearean roles included Edmund in King Lear in 1973, Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew opposite Meryl Streep and the title role of Othello in 1979. Juliá went on to enjoy great success on the musical stage, receiving four Tony Award nominations for his roles in Two Gentlemen of Verona (1972, for which he also won the 1972 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance), Where’s Charley? (1975), as Mack the Knife in The Threepenny Opera (1976), and in the Fellini-inspired Nine (1982). He appeared in over a dozen Broadway productions, including the legendary 1973 flop musical Via Galactica. During this time he also starred from 1977 to 1980 in the title role of the critically acclaimed stage revival of Dracula and as Major Sergius Saranoff opposite Kevin Kline and Glenne Headly in the 1985 revival of Arms and the Man. The stage successes led to his formal film debut in The Organization (1971), in which he starred opposite Sidney Poitier (he had played bit parts in two previous films, Stiletto and The Panic in Needle Park). In the early 1980s, Juliá was invited to join Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios company and appeared in One from the Heart (1982).