Tribute to Benicio Del Toro 

Benicio Del Toro

You have to love what you do, otherwise do something else.”


I remember the mid-nineties as a time when one could often see films that were more than just a solid and predictable example of their particular genre. Two specific titles – The Usual Suspects (1995) and The Funeral (1996) – have gone down in memory as exceptionally original films that today are among the most discussed and most respected examples of the thriller and gangster genres. Both Bryan Singer and Abel Ferrara showed remarkable intuition in casting the then not quite thirty-year-old Benicio Del Toro, who gave unforgettable performances as the strangely mumbling criminal Fenster and the gangster boss Gaspare.

A native of Puerto Rico, Del Toro grew up in Pennsylvania. He briefly studied economics before switching to acting, and to this day he speaks with great respect of the Stella Adler Conservatory as an institution that helped transform his serious hobby into a dream career. According to Adler, a legendary student of Stanislavski and a proponent of the Method, acting is as relevant a part of telling a story as directing. This philosophy is clearly present throughout the rich and diverse career of Benicio Del Toro, who would appear to have understood the responsibility his performance holds for the entire film. He is a team player, albeit one of the most distinctive ones. His always indescribably captivating performances, characterized by a matter-of-fact nonchalance, inspire the rest of the cast to give their best as well.

The career of this charismatic charmer is full of what today are considered cult classics, for instance Basquiat (1996), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), or Snatch (2000). At the turn of the millennium, Del Toro’s unerring instinct for working with remarkable directors culminated with the role of Javier Rodríguez, a Mexican police officer willing to apply truly unorthodox methods in the name of the “greater good.” Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic earned Del Toro an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, not to mention a Golden Globe, a Silver Bear at the Berlinale, and a BAFTA Award.

Few contemporary actors are beloved by film fans and festival juries alike. Del Toro’s performance in Alejandro González Iñarritu’s 21 Grams (2003) earned him the Audience Award in Venice, while another collaboration with Soderbergh, the two-parter Che (2008), which he also produced, will forever be associated with the history of the Cannes film festival, where he took home the Best Actor Award.

A connoisseur of movie history, Benicio Del Toro speaks with undisguised respect not only of the directors he has worked with (to our already impressive list, we can also add Denis Villeneuve, Arnaud Desplechin, and Wes Anderson), but also of cinematic personalities such as François Truffaut and Kaneto Shindo – directors whose works have had a fundamental influence on his artistic tastes and sensibilities and his respect for hard work.

Karel Och

  • Traffic Traffic – Nadvláda gangů / Traffic
    Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
    USA, Germany, 2000, 147 min

    Director Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic is a fascinating tale of the drug trade told from the perspective of everyone involved: politicians, police, smugglers, and end users. Soderbergh gives everyone their own story, which cleverly intertwines with all the others on the US-Mexico border.  Excelling in this star-studded crime drama are Michael Douglas, Benicio Del Toro, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

  • The Usual Suspects Obvyklí podezřelí / The Usual Suspects
    Directed by: Bryan Singer
    USA, Germany, 1995, 106 min

    Roger “Verbal” Kint, a survivor of an incident that left twenty-seven dead, sits in a police station and tells the story that led to the massacre... The neo-noir mystery thriller The Usual Suspects needs little introduction. Its meticulously constructed narrative, dark atmosphere, and top-notch performances are all the ingredients of a film that just demands to be enjoyed again on the big screen.


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