Tomás Milián: Cuban-born Actor in Hollywood

In its “Cuban-born Stars in Hollywood” series, Cuba Now focuses on actor Tomás Milián. Trained at the Actor’s Studio, Milián interpreted a mad psychopath in Bounty Killer, a role he would then improve and diversify into an impressive gallery of neurotic and sadistic killers, first in Spaghetti-Westerns and then in action and police thrillers. His films gradually evolved into action comedies, as he played the recurrent characters of thief “Monnezza” and cop Nico Giraldi (the latter being originally based on “Serpico”), two typically Roman characters that enjoyed great popularity in the 70s and 80s. The actor has matured into the riveting roles for which he is now best known. Jorge Smith (Cuba Now) writes:

Watching him playing the dictator Leónidas Trujillo in the film La fiesta del Chivo (The Feast of the Goat), or the cruel General Arturo Salazar in Traffic, or the wretched Cuban passenger terrorized by the risks that driver Clive Owen forced him to take in the episode “Ambush” of the series The Hire, makes you realize that Cuban actor Tomás Milián performs like very few do in this world.

He was born in 1932 in La Víbora, a neighbourhood south of Havana, and was originally named Tomás Quintín Rodríguez. He studied at the Salesian schools nearby the place where he lived. His father, a general of the Army, committed suicide in front of him after Batista’s coup d’état on March 10, 1952.

In 1955 he left for Miami and began to study acting and painting. His realistic and impassioned recitation of a poem impressed his professor, who helped him make his way to New York, to the Actors Studio, where actors like Montgomery Clift, James Dean, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Steve Mc Queen and Marilyn Monroe learned the Stanislavski method. [. . .] Tomás Milián was the second Hispanic actor in the history to cross the glorious threshold of that institution. He was able to share lessons with Dennis Hopper (Giant, Rebel without a Cause, Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now), and they got along well.

[. . .] Tomás Milián, a tormented young man who had witnessed his father’s suicide, had an “emotional memory” that made things easier for him, but he also had passion and irony and he was a nice-looking man. He made it to Broadway, where he acted in the play The Boat without Fishermen. Afterwards he was hired to play a role in the NBC TV series Decoy, directed by Michael Gordon. But, in general, that first American period was a failure. Invited by French director Jean Cocteau (Beauty and the Beast) and Italian director Giancarlo Menotti he left for Europe.

[. . .] The prizewinning Mauro Bolognini hired him to work in the film La Giornata Balorda (1960), where guile and eroticism were the hallmarks of his performance. Tomás Milián was the Cuban boyfriend of the gorgeous Claudia Cardinale, with whom he worked in two films, among them, Il Bell´Antonio (Antonio, the Great Lover) also performed by Marcello Mastroianni. Soon after that, he signed a profitable contract with the famous producer Franco Cristaldi and embarked upon an Italian moviemaking career that lasted for 25 years, a period that is considered the best of his artistic life.

[. . .] After staying in Italy for 25 years, he returned to the United States in 1985 and he immediately got a role in the successful series Miami Vice, together with star Don Johnson. He performed together with Kevin Costner, Anthony Quinn, Madeleine Stowe and Miguel Ferrer in the film Revenge, directed by Tony Scott (Man on Fire), and Oliver Stone gave him a role in that wonderful moviemaking piece entitled JFK.

John Frankenheimer (Ronin) hired him to work in the film The Burning Season and Steven Spielberg hired him to play a role in his film Amistad. He also shared the stage with the very popular actor Mark Walhberg in the film The Yards. In the film Traffic, directed by Steven Soderberh, he superbly played the role of the corrupted General Arturo Salazar, and there are many who wonder why he didn’t receive an Oscar for such performance. The Feast of the Goat, directed by Luis Llosa, a film based on the well-known novel written by Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, portrays him in the role of the Dominican tyrant Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. That was another excellent performance.

For original article, see

For short bio, see

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