For many years there has been a strong connection between the US and Mexican film industries, delivering many choices for the list of five best Mexican actors. From Ricardo Montalban to Salma Hayek, several of Mexico’s finest have been able to establish themselves in the Hollywood system.
- Anthony Quinn. Who would imagine that a boy from Chihuahua, Mexico, would grow up to top the list of the five best Mexican actors and win two Academy Awards. But when he was a boy Antonio Rudolfo Oaxaca Quinn relocated to Los Angeles with his family. There he became a boxer and studied architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright before becoming a contract player at Paramount Pictures. The fact that he married Cecil B. DeMille’s daughter and that he couldn’t be drafted to fight in World War II, helped him move out of smaller parts and become a leading man. There, he proved he deserved the opportunity, winning Oscars for “Lust for Life” and “Viva Zapata!” Quinn died in 2001 due to complications from throat cancer.
- Salma Hayek. She’s certainly the hottest entrant on the list of five best Mexican actors, and Salma Hayek has become quite a media mogul as well. Born in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico, Hayek started her career in the telenovela “Teresa,” in which she played the title role. But it was her Ariel Award nominated role in “El Callejon de los Milagros” (“Miracle Alley”) that made her a movie star in her motherland. Hayek had actually moved to Los Angeles years before, studying acting and English, and in 1995 she landed the role that would launch her U.S. career, starring with Antonio Banderas in the Robert Rodriguez film “Desperado.” These days Hayek continues to act in films like “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant,” but she also produces TV series like “Ugly Betty” and movies like “Frida.” She won a Daytime Emmy Award in 2003 for Outstanding Directing in a Children/Youth/Family Special for the Showtime movie “The Maldonado Miracle.”
- Diego Luna. Born in Mexico City, Mexico, in 1979, Diego Luna is the youngest member of the list of five best Mexican actors. At the age of 30, he’s a veteran actor, having started his career at the age of twelve in the film “El Ultimo Fin de Ano” (“The Last New Year”). He acted in several telenovelas before being cast in the role that would introduce him to U.S. audiences—Tenoch Iturbide in Alfonso Cuaron’s “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (“And Your Mother, Too”). He has made a number of Hollywood films since, including the Tom Hanks flop “Terminal” and the Academy Award nominated bio pic “Milk” with Sean Penn.
- Gael Garcia Bernal. Bernal was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico in 1978. And like his sometimes acting and producing partner Diego Luna, he may be young but he has already earned distinction as one of the five best Mexican actors. Like his “Y Tu Mama Tambien” co-star, Luna has become a staple in non-Mexican productions, including “The Motorcycle Diaries” and “The Science of Sleep.” But he’s also remained true to his roots. Canana Productions, the production company he founded with Luna, released the documentary “J.C. Chavez” about famed Mexican boxer Julia Cesar Chavez, which Luna directed.
- Ricardo Montalban. He may have done some serious respectability factor damage to his career in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but Ricardo Montalban definitely deserves a spot on the list of five best Mexican actors. Long before he was Mr. Roarke on “Fantasy Island,” for decades prior to playing Captain Kirk’s nemesis in the film “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” and even in advance of those “soft Corinthian leather" Chrysler commercials, the Mexico City born actor was establishing himself as a film star south of the border. He began his U.S. career in the late ‘40s and worked consistently until his death in 2009, with 170 credits to his name according to IMDb.