Also Credited As:Andrés Arturo García Menéndez
|Actor, Director, Producer, Writer, Music|
|Andrés Arturo García Menéndez on April 12, 1956 in Cuba|
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Andres Arturo Garcia Menendez was born on April 12, 1956, in Havana, Cuba - the third child after an older brother and sister. Garcia's father had a prosperous career as a lawyer and farmer; his mother as a teacher, but at age five, the family fled Cuba for Miami, FL after the Bay of Pigs, settling into a one-bedroom apartment. His father cleaned and maintained the inventory at a catering company, while his mother - who, of all of them, had the strongest mastery of English at the time - found work as an English teacher. Garcia, himself, collected bottles on Miami's beaches for extra income, but eventually the family would go into the hosiery - and later, fragrance - business run by Garcia's older brother.
At age 11, Garcia attended Biscayne Elementary School, developing a major passion for the congas, devouring Cuban jazz and mambo artists like Jose Fajardo and Israel "Cachao" Lopez. He made his way through Nautilus Junior High and, entranced by the city's Cuban nightlife, hit the music clubs often. Though Garcia was an athlete and sports lover at Miami Beach High School - especially in basketball - an 18-month case of hepatitis would force him out of playing and inadvertently help introduce him to the pursuit of acting.
Garcia attended Florida International University, taking acting classes in between his schoolwork and appearing in plays at FIU and Miami-Dade Community College. One night in 1975, he met his soon-to-be girlfriend Maria Victoria Lorido at a local club, proposing marriage on the spot. After college, he was all set to go into business with his father, but had an aching hunger to act professionally. Immediately after tearfully securing his mother's blessing, she firmly broke the news to his father that Garcia was off to Hollywood.
In Los Angeles, Garcia's early acting prospects were slim. He had a small apartment and worked different jobs while taking acting classes. Garcia and Marivi Larido were married in the fall of 1982, but his early appearances in film and television were frustrating, as he was repeatedly typecast in bit parts. Things began to change when he managed to appear several times as a menacing gang presence on NBC's popular drama "Hill Street Blues" (1981-87) through 1984. That same year, the couple had their first daughter, Dominik, and his onscreen visibility received a huge boost when he was cast as Miami homicide detective Ray Martinez in the big screen serial killer drama, "The Burning Season" (1985). His cool, edgy appearance turned some heads in casting circles and Garcia soon adopted a long-haired look, taking up with the other side of the law as the drug dealing Angel Maldonado of "8 Million Ways to Die" (1986).
With a solid one-two big screen punch for Garcia, "8 Million ," prompted Brian De Palma to court him for the true-life role of Al Capone's heavy Frank Nitti in his big screen version of "The Untouchables" (1987). Garcia wanted to offer a less harsh perception of himself and avoid cultural stereotypes, opting to appeal for the role of the nobler Italian-American rookie cop, Giuseppe Petri, who helped bring Capone to justice. The violent movie starring Kevin Costner and Sean Connery was a huge success, and the nature of Garcia's police role set a tone for his next projects. He next picked up the badge again to play Michael Douglas' benevolent police partner in Ridley Scott's Japan-set thriller, "Black Rain" (1989). Garcia also saw the birth of second daughter Daniella in 1989, before appearing as a dogged young IA agent pursuing Richard Gere's suave, shady cop in "Internal Affairs" (1990). Several of the films were made for Paramount Pictures, who had become a most ardent supporter of the Latin actor.
As Paramount was releasing "Internal Affairs" at the start of 1990, it was in the midst of overseeing production on Francis Ford Coppola's controversial return to the fabled "Godfather" series. Garcia was handpicked by the studio over some of Hollywood's most established young guns to play Vincent Mancini, the wily, charming protégé and illegitimate nephew of mafia don Michael Corleone. Coppola balked at the suggested casting at first, but came to understand Paramount's passion for Garcia and hired him. Released that Christmas, "The Godfather III" (1990) severely polarized audiences, who either cheered or jeered at its conclusion. But there was no debate about his acting chops. The first phase of Garcia's career had culminated with both Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations in 1991.
The 1990s proved to be anything but predictable for Garcia's career trajectory. His family expanded with a third daughter, Alessandra, in 1992 and they chose to split their time between Los Angeles and Miami's Key Biscayne region, where they had bought a home the year before. With similarities in presence to his "Godfather" co-star Al Pacino, Hollywood and its audiences expected Garcia's career to have the same resonance, but to their surprise, he seemed to have other ideas. Working again with Paramount, Garcia took on the role of a lovelorn reporter opposite Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson in the thriller "Dead Again" (1991), about murdered reincarnated lovers, as well as headlined "Jennifer 8" (1992), a minor small-town crime thriller which saw him playing yet another police officer. In between, he tried his hand at a big budget satire, as a man faking his role in a plane crash rescue in Columbia Pictures' "Hero" (1992).
In 1993, Garcia, who had vigorously maintained his strong roots in Cuban culture, produced, directed and appeared in his own project, "Cachao Como su ritmo no hay dos!" ("Like His Rhythm There Is No Other") - a documentary about his longtime musical hero, Cachao. Returning to Hollywood films by starring opposite Meg Ryan, winning kudos for his sensitive portrayal of a husband and father patiently dealing with his wife's crippling descent into alcoholism in "When a Man Loves a Woman" (1994). He followed up this sentimental film with the cult favorite "Things to in Denver Do When You're Dead" (1995), a post-Tarantino comedy in which Garcia's reformed gangster Jimmy "The Saint" is roped by debts back into crime. He picked parts with his intuition, seeking out the avocado farmer role in "Steal Little, Steal Big" (1995) simply for the joy of emulating his farmer father.
After segueing back into prestige projects with Sidney Lumet's "Night Falls on Manhattan" (1995), in which he was on familiar terrain as an earnest D.A. attempting to do right, Garcia was eager to step into the sh s of more real-life historical figures. These included the famed p t of the Spanish Civil War, Federico Garcia Lorca, in "The Disappearance of Garcia Lorca" (1997), and an equally-impressive turn in MGM's "Hoodlum" (1997) as mob syndicate Lucky Luciano - big screen misfires that underserved their performer's charisma. By the end of 2000, Garcia's ability to play biographical figures and his obsession with music brought him back to television as legendary trumpeter Arturo Sandoval in HBO's "For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story" (2000). For his work, he netted two 2001 Emmy nominations - one as its lead; the other as its producer.
It seemed as though Garcia's onscreen brand of passionate sincerity would not return him to the studio blockbuster fold anytime soon, but he found his niche in the system when, in 2001, he was tapped for the ensemble cast of "Ocean's Eleven" (2001). Draped within a cold, cocky veneer, Garcia chewed the scenery playing Terry Benedict, a Las Vegas casino owner on the receiving end of an elaborate heist. Danny Ocean himself, George Clooney, roped in a motley crew of actors, with Garcia fitting in perfectly among the crowd of unconventional, self-effacing matinee hunks including Clooney himself, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. The film was a success with audiences and critics alike.
By 2002, Garcia was also riding high with the birth of a son, Andres Antonio. An "Ocean's" sequel was inevitable as well, with too much profit and fun to be had on the line. Garcia had several films in the can in 2004, but made his biggest splash in that summer's "Ocean's Twelve," in which Benedict vowed to get his stolen money back even tracking the Ocean's gang internationally. As impressive as the franchise had become, Garcia personally eclipsed that milestone for himself with a second project of his own. Recruiting a diverse mix of Latin actors and Hollywood heavyweights like Bill Murray and Dustin Hoffman, he directed and executive produced "The Lost City" (2005), a romantic love letter to Havana, Cuba's vibrancy in the 1950s, and co-written with Cuban author, Guillermo Cabrera Infante. Garcia played Fico Fellove, a member of a middle-class nightclub-owning family forced into exile following the societal changes of the Castro regime. After years of gestation, the film started production in the summer of 2004. Infante had died by then, but Garcia used his 300-page script as a guide. Long an accomplished conga, guitar and piano player, Garcia - who won a Grammy for producing Cachao's 2004 album, Ahora Si! - even wrote its mambo-flavored score. Despite mixed reviews upon the movie's release, Garcia's deep feelings for Cuba remained clear.
By 2007, Garcia had solidified his inroads into major studio projects, but seemed content to step back and act alongside other great talents, rather than carry films on his own. A commanding presence, nonetheless, he was the F.B.I. director overseeing the protection of magician informant Buddy "Aces" Israel in "Smoking Aces," a slick ensemble action film - not unlike the "Ocean's" franchise - which kicked off the year. After a lengthy absence, "Ocean's Thirteen" (2007) was prepped for the summer. Enough time had passed, even allowing for Garcia's character to make peace with his former nemesis (Clooney) and ante up into the caper himself.