A well-respected character actor who specializes in playing tough guys with a heart, Luis Guzman has appeared in a dizzying array of film and television productions since he began his professional acting career in the early 1980s.
A native of Manhattan, Guzman graduated from City College and worked for some years as a youth counselor at the Henry Street Settlement House. During his time as a social worker, he began performing in street theatre and independent films. Guzman got his first big break in the early '80s with a role on the popular TV series Miami Vice. He went on to work sporadically in film and television throughout the rest of the decade, appearing in such films as Sidney Lumet's Family Business and Ridley Scott's Black Rain (both 1989).
Guzman's work schedule grew increasingly crowded as the 1990s progressed; kicking off the decade with an appearance in another Lumet piece, Q & A (1990), the actor began popping up in films ranging from romantic comedy (Anthony Minghella's Mr. Wonderful, 1993) to crime drama (Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way, 1993) to gay and lesbian historical docudrama (Nigel Finch's Stonewall, 1995).
Thanks to directors Steven Soderbergh and Paul Thomas Anderson, Guzman became more readily recognizable in the late 1990s. For Soderbergh, he had substantial roles in Out of Sight (1998), which cast him as a prisoner whose planned escape is ruined by George Clooney; and The Limey (1999), in which he played Terence Stamp's gruff but good-hearted partner in revenge. For Anderson, Guzman appeared in both Boogie Nights (1997) and Magnolia (1999), playing a wannabe porn star in the former and a game show contestant in the latter. 2002 proved Guzman's busiest year to date as the increasingly visible actor appeared in no less than five films, including a prominant role in the caper comedy Welcome to Collinwood and a re-teaming with director Anderson with Punch-Drunk Love.
On television, Guzman became a regular presence thanks to a recurring role on the HBO prison drama Oz, as well as appearances on such shows as Law and Order, NYPD Blue, and Walker, Texas Ranger.