Though a multihyphenate ad extremis who racked up a litany of influential accomplishments in the theater, modern art, and film worlds, distinguished Tomas Arana is perhaps best known for his contributions to cinema as a character actor, where he initially specialized in portrayals of period figures from ancient times. Over the course of his career Arana set himself apart from the pack by refusing to limit himself to productions from one country; he seemed equally at home working in the U.S., Italy, and Japan.
A native of San Francisco, Arana received formal, classical training in stage work at the American Conservatory Theatre, then hitchhiked all over Europe, working as an itinerant artist and collaborating with giants including Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Joseph Beuys. Upon returning to the States, Arana began signing for film roles; memorable studio parts included Lazarus in Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Leginov the cook in The Hunt for Red October (1990), and Quintus in Ridley Scott's Best Picture winner Gladiator (2000). As time rolled on, Arana also turned up in independent films such as the porn star coming of age drama This Girl's Life (2003) and the natural horror shlockfest Frankenfish (2004). International directors with whom he collaborated include Liliana Cavani, Carlo Verdone, and Michele Soavi. Theatrically, Arana made headlines by serving as producer and starring in numerous productions with the Naples-based theatrical ensemble Falso Movimento.