John Leguizamo

On this date in 1964, actor John Alberto Leguizamo was born in Bogotá, Colombia, to Alberto and Luz Leguizamo. The family emigrated to New York City when he was 4. In high school he was voted “most talkative” by classmates. He left NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts to pursue stand-up comedy and made his TV debut in 1986 on “Miami Vice.”

Other early roles were as a friend of Madonna’s boyfriend in her “Borderline” video (1984), a terrorist in “Die Hard 2” (1990), a robber in “Regarding Henry” (1991) and as Luigi Mario in the 1993 adventure comedy “Super Mario Bros.” That same year he had a prominent role in Brian De Palma’s “Carlito’s Way,” which boosted his career in serious roles.

Leguizamo had other numerous roles in the 1990s, including a star turn as a drag queen in “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar” (1995), for which he received a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Supporting Actor. To promote the Baz Luhrmann movie “Moulin Rouge!” (2001), he appeared on a celebrity edition of the U.S. version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” with Kelly Ripa, Martin Short and Chevy Chase. In 2008, he co-starred in “The Happening,” written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

He hit the stage with his Obie-winning “John Leguizamo: Mambo Mouth” (1991), in which he portrayed seven different Latino characters. He made his Broadway debut in “John Leguizamo: Freak” (1998), a one-man show filmed for HBO by Spike Lee. In 2011 he opened his semi-autobiographical, one-man show “Ghetto Klown” on Broadway. His memoir Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends: My Life, was published in 2006. 

He hosted the 2018 Obie Awards and directed and starred in “Critical Thinking” (2020), based on a 1998 true story about five LatinX and Black teens from the Miami ghetto who make it to the National Chess Championship. He co-founded NGL Collective, a digital media company based in New York that helps clients reach the Hispanic market. “Last year, Latinx people were 3 percent of the faces in front of the camera and behind the camera,” he told Hispanic Executive. (9-11-20)

Leguizamo married actress Yelba Osorio in 1994. They divorced in 1996. He married Justine Maurer, a costumer working on “Carlito’s Way,” in 2003. They have a daughter, Allegra Sky (b. 1999), and a son, Ryder Lee (b. 2000). They were the flower girl and ring bearer at their parents’ wedding.

On “Real Time With Bill Maher” (Oct. 16, 2020), Leguizamo described himself as “godless.” Asked by The Onion A.V. Club if there’s a God, he said, “Yeah, but there’s not just one God. There’s a whole lot of gods, because one God couldn’t have possibly made so many mistakes all by Himself. This had to be done by committee.” (Oct. 9, 2002)

Freedom From Religion Foundation