Born on Jan. 12, 1966 in Paris, France, Martinez was raised in a working class suburb along with his younger brother, Vincent. His father was a professional …
|January 12, 1966|
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Born on Jan. 12, 1966 in Paris, France, Martinez was raised in a working class suburb along with his younger brother, Vincent. His father was a professional boxer-turned-mechanic of Spanish descent hailing from Morocco; his mother, a French secretary. Coming out of his teens, Martinez abandoned school and went to work in jobs that, included jeans salesman and later, bartender. He began following in his father's footsteps, boxing as a professional welterweight, but put down the gloves after a car accident left his back injured. In 1989, at the age of 23, a casting director saw him bartending and helped him enroll in the Conservatoire National Superieur d'Art Dramatique, and the world of acting opened Martinez to new ways of examining life.
With spots on French television in as early as 1990, it was not long before Martinez was demonstrating the wealth of his talents on the big screen. Cast as a young criminal sharing time with screen legend Yves Montand in Jean-Jacques Beineix's "IP5: L'île aux pachyderms" ("The Island of Pachyderms") (1992), Martinez was nominated in 1993 for France's top acting honor, the Cesar, for Most Promising Actor. He soon delivered on that promise swiftly and effectively, jumping into the drama "Un, deux, tres, soleil" ("1, 2, 3, Sun") (1993) as the charming local thief, Paul. In 1994, finding himself again in the same place at the Cesar Awards, he left this time with award in hand.
Director Jean-Paul Rappeneau knew he wanted Martinez to anchor his filmed adaptation of the classic French novel, "Hussard sur le toit, Le" ("The Horseman on the Roof") (1995). With major approval under his belt, Martinez vaulted to international prominence working with one of France's top acting icons, Juliet Binoche. Paired up in the epic story of a woman searching for her husband in the midst of a cholera epidemic, the romance onscreen was subdued, as Martinez's Italian revolutionary Angelo Pardi was forced to suppress the onset of attraction. The press surrounding the film was as salacious as the film's romance was chaste, with reporters intent on gleaming details about the much hotter off-screen romance between him and Binoche - a highly-publicized relationship in which the couple lived together for three years.
Though he was a cinema sensation in his native country, in America, Martinez had been saddled with the press label of "the French Brad Pitt" due to their similarities in age and period of ascent. He was utilized once again by the director who had helped him to a Cesar, Bertrand Blier, playing a poet in Blier's exploration of sexuality in "Mon Homme" ("My Man") (1996), but in 1999, Martinez resolved to learn English in preparation for things to come, aided by American television sitcoms and films. By 2000, Martinez was searching for opportunities beyond his familiar reach. Playing Cuban writer Lázaro Gómez Carriles - also the co-writer of painter/filmmaker Julian Schnabel's "Before Night Falls" (2000) - Martinez found himself in good company alongside a bevy of international acting heavyweights. His small role brought him closer to a familiarity with American audiences, but not as much as a much-trafficked one-year old romance with Oscar-winning actress Mira Sorvino.
To American audiences, infidelity never seemed so tempting or understandable, as when Martinez appeared in his American film debut, "Unfaithful" (2002), a remake of France's "Femme infidèle, La" ("The Unfaithful Wife") (1969). Directed by Adrian Lyne, one of Hollywood's most reliable directors of sizzle, Martinez tore into the role of Paul, a Manhattan bookshop owner initiating an illicit affair with Diane Lane's married suburbanite. As Lane's onscreen husband, actor Richad Gere - himself no slouch in the sex symbol department - fatally eliminated Martinez's bedhopper as competition, providing the film with its main arcs of duplicity and rekindled passion. Its success allowed Martinez to steer his career into the U.S. and move to Los Angeles, but the subsequent end of his romance with Sorvino prompted him to live nomadically.
The actor was off to a good start in his Hollywood ventures with HBO's televised remake of Tennessee Williams' "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone" (2003). British actress Helen Mirren and Martinez, as Italian gigolo Paolo di Lio, steamed up the screen, and the actor's budding relationship with Hollywood film studios began to bring him more work. But the work was now of a different caliber than the type that had elevated his career initially. Martinez played a run-of-the-mill European drug lord facing down L.A.'s "S.W.A.T." (1996) team, then took the role of the Canadian officer Paquette in the thriller "Taking Lives" (2004) due to his admiration for co-star Gena Rowlands, but the two films performed only mildly.
As 2003 wrapped, Martinez's personal life threatened to once more overshadow his acting career and preoccupy audiences, after he began dating Australian pop star Kylie Minogue. The couple weathered the press as her music career exploded and she underwent a fight with breast cancer in mid-2005. Martinez stayed by Minogue's side during her treatment and recovery, but by the start of 2007, the couple found their priorities and personalities changed through the experience and, irrevocably out of sync, called it quits. Martinez went back to focusing on his work, even prepping for his role as a werewolf pack leader by spending quality time alongside caged wolves for MGM's adaptation of "Blood and Chocolate" (2007).