Ricardo Darín: Argentina’s Lucky Charm at the Oscars
When the country has a nominated film, it has usually starred this veteran. But the actor says other people have believed in his talent more than he has.
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By Carlos Aguilar
WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Fortune has long favored Ricardo Darín. More than the subjective concept of talent, it is providence, manifested as other people’s unwavering confidence in his abilities, that the actor credits for his storied career as Argentina’s most celebrated film star internationally.
“I’ve had all the luck that my parents didn’t have as actors,” he said in Spanish during a recent interview at the Sunset Tower Hotel in West Hollywood. “Many times, people have valued me far more than I value myself, and I often think, ‘Do I deserve all that?’”
The latest example of his relationship with Lady Luck is his turn as the real-life prosecutor Julio Strassera in “Argentina, 1985,” a historical courtroom drama about the Trial of the Juntas, when military leaders were tried for human rights violations during the former dictatorship. Directed by Santiago Mitre, it earned Argentina an Oscar nomination for best international feature film.
Darín seems to be his country’s lucky charm when it comes to the Academy Awards. He has starred in all four movies to earn Argentina a nod this century, including “Son of the Bride,” “Wild Tales” and “The Secret in Their Eyes,” which took home the statuette in 2010. And Argentina has also submitted several other Darín-led productions to the academy over the years — meaning that even though they didn’t all make the cut, the films in which he appears are almost synonymous with the best of Argentine cinema.
From the first handshake, Darín, 66, radiates a welcoming aura. Casually dressed in bluejeans and a navy sweater, he speaks with a warmth and candor that most people reserve for their closest friends. That temperament translates onscreen.
“Ricardo has an immense power to elicit empathy from the audience, and that’s rare,” said the director Juan José Campanella, who has collaborated with Darín on four features.
Though the actor inherited a passion for performance from his parents, who were both working actors in Buenos Aires, neither was enthusiastic about his carrying on the family’s craft. “They didn’t fight me on it, but they also didn’t encourage me to do it,” he recalled.
Darín thinks of his path as preordained. He was a regular on film and TV sets and theater stages in childhood, first acting professionally at 3 years old in the 1960 series “Soledad Monsalvo.” At 10 he debuted onstage alongside his parents. By the time he attended his first theater workshop at 14, Darín felt like a seasoned veteran who had already experienced many facets of the job firsthand.
For a time in adolescence, he contemplated becoming a veterinarian, a psychologist or even a lawyer. But in the end, the world he had always been familiar with persuaded him to stay. Doors opened easily for him, with frequent invitations to participate in a variety of projects.
Interviews With the Oscar Nominees
That trust from notable people in the industry is what he calls fortune. Darín has dear memories of the television director Diana Álvarez, who got into a fight with a network in 1982 so that he could be part of the show “Nosotros y Los Miedos.” She saw in him potential that others couldn’t.
“In our profession, luck is very important,” Darín said. “There are very talented people out there with lots to tell who can’t find opportunities.”
In the 1990s, Darín found immense success as the co-star of the sitcom “Mi Cuñado” (“My Brother-in-Law”), playing an impertinent but charming screw-up. His contract restricted him from other TV ventures but allowed him to pursue films. Among them was his first outing with Campanella, “The Same Love, the Same Rain” (1999), which helped other directors see beyond his TV persona.