Handsome Spanish actor Eduardo Noriega has drawn praise for his work with such directors as Alejandro Amenábar and Guillermo del Toro, and his killer combination of good looks and solid acting skills has found him playing complex characters that are often simultaneously sympathetic, mysterious, and menacing. Born the youngest of seven brothers in Santander, Cantabria, Spain, Noriega went on to study music harmony and choral singing at Santander University. Though stage studies initially came secondary to music studies, his skills as an actor were undeniable, and Noriega was soon honing his natural skills at Madrid's School of Dramatic Art. Early work with such burgeoning filmmakers as Mateo Gil and the aforementioned Amenábar eventually found the trio teaming for the 1996 thriller Tesis -- which offered Noriega his breakout role and Amenábar his feature directorial debut. A harrowing look at the effects of violence in the modern media, Tesis swept the Goya Awards in 1997, winning its young director the Best New Director award in addition to landing Best Film and Best Screenplay. Success would continue to follow the trio with the release of the metaphysical thriller Abre los Ojos the following year. A surreal study in vanity and questionable reality, the film found Noriega stepping into the lead as a young playboy whose life is turned inside out after a disfiguring accident. If the subsequent lack of success at that year's Goya Awards (the film was nominated in ten categories but took home none) initially proved somewhat disheartening, the international praise and exposure that Abre los Ojos drew offered all involved noteworthy international exposure. The film drew such a following that it was remade in 2001 under the title Vanilla Sky by director Cameron Crowe and featured mega-star Tom Cruise essaying the role originated by Noriega.
In the years that followed, director Amenábar went on to achieve stateside success with The Others, while Noriega continued to appear in such Spanish features as The Yellow Fountain, Nobody Knows Anybody (directed by Gil), and Burning Money. He played a living, breathing ghost in director del Toro's masterfully haunting thriller The Devil's Backbone in 2001. Cast as a "prince without a kingdom" whose hallowed soul drives him to commit horrible acts against the young inhabitants of a Spanish orphanage, Noriega delivered a textured performance that offered a fitting catalyst for the film's supernatural menace. He remained in the Spanish Civil War era for the 2001 drama Visionarios and fought in a more modern battle when he played a soldier in the 2002 war drama Guerreros. Later that year, Noriega essayed the lead in the Memento-esque amnesia drama Novo. Though the actor continued to essay strong leading roles, the earlier success of Tesis and Abre los Ojos continued to elude him into the early 2000s.