Alfonso Arau

Active - 1952 - 2017  |   Born - Jan 11, 1932   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Western

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Mexican actor and director Alfonso Arau's first American film role was as bloodthirsty bandit Herrera in Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969), a role he would later parody (albeit with a straight face) in the 1986 comedy Three Amigos! U.S. filmgoers were by and large unaware that Arau had long been a popular vaudeville, theater, and TV performer, and had built his Mexican film reputation as an independent producer/director, beginning with 1969's The Barefoot Eagle. Arau reached the plateau of art-house idolatry when he decided to adapt a novel about the mystical aspects of gourmet cooking, written by his wife Laura Esquivel. The subsequent film, Like Water for Chocolate (1993), ended up as one of the most profitable foreign movies ever exhibited in America and won a number of international awards as well as multiple Silver Ariels, Mexico's equivalent of the Oscar. Arau followed Like Water for Chocolate with A Walk in the Clouds two years later. Arau's first American film as a director, it starred Keanu Reeves as a WWII veteran who poses as the husband of a pregnant young woman in order to help her preserve her standing within her family. Despite great anticipation surrounding its release, the film proved to be a critical and commercial disappointment.

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