A prolific and acclaimed actor in his native Mexico, Demián Bichir delivered award-winning performances as men of conviction, including Emiliano Zapata and Fidel Castro in Steven Soderbergh's two-part biopic "Che" (2008) before making a major splash in America with the moving drama "A Better Life" (2011). The son and brother of actors, Bichir began in Mexican television dramas, or telenovelas before gaining prominence in the late 1980s and 1990s with turns in "Rojo Amanecer" ("Red Dawn") (1989) and "Hasta morir" ('Til Death") (1994), which earned him the Mexican equivalent of an Oscar. He dabbled in American films and television throughout the 1990s and early millennium, gaining recognition for the Soderbergh films and "Weeds" (Showtime, 2005-12) as a corrupt border politician. However, his powerful turn as a simple man faced with seemingly insurmountable odds in the feature "Better Life" drew international attention and acclaim, as well as the potential for stardom in Hollywood - a rarity for Mexican actors, even those with Bichir's seemingly limitless talents. Bechir fulfilled that promise with roles in films ranging from Paul Feig's action comedy "The Heat" (2013) to Quentin Tarantino's violent western "The Hateful Eight" (2015), as well as a starring role opposite Diane Kruger on cable drama "The Bridge" (FX 2013-14).
Born Demián Bichir Nájera on Aug. 1, 1963 in Mexico City, he was one of three sons by theater actors Alejandro Bichir and his wife, Maricruz Nájera, who drew his surname from the Herman Hesse novel Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair's Youth. Raised in poverty, Bichir and his brothers Odiseo and Bruno decided to follow their parents' career path at an early age. Demián made his screen debut at 14 in the telenovela "Rina" ("Televisa") (1977) and began working steadily in Mexican television throughout the 1980s. During this period, he also made his first appearance in an American production with the 1983 TV movie "Choices of the Heart" (NBC), about the 1980 murder of three Roman Catholic nuns in El Salvador. At 22, he headed for New York City to audition for the Actors Studio, but was told to save his tuition, as he was already a capable actor. For the next few years, Bichir worked various day jobs while honing his English skills. After a fruitless four-year stint in Los Angeles, he returned to Mexico, where he co-starred with his brother Bruno in the controversial, award-winning "Rojo Amanecer" ("Red Dawn") (1989), an unflinching recount of students massacred by the Mexican Army in 1968. By 1994, he had become one of his country's busiest and most acclaimed actors, with an Ariel - the Mexican equivalent of the Oscar - for "Hasta morir" ("'Til Death") (1994), a crime drama set in Tijuana, and a starring role in the blockbuster drama "Sexo, pudor y lagrimas" ("Sex, Shame and Tears") (1999) as a traveler who, in cuckolding his best friend, launched a war of the sexes between spouses and lovers.
Bichir eventually returned to the United States, where his celebrity helped to earn him substantive parts in American productions, including a 2001 adaptation of Julia Alvarez's "In the Time of the Butterflies" (Showtime) opposite Salma Hayek and the offbeat comedy "Heartbreak Hospital" (2002), which offered Bichir his first lead in an American movie. However, it failed to find an audience, and he soon returned to Mexican features. There, he drew excellent notices for such popular films as the Altman-esque "Ciudades Oscuras" ("Dark Cities") (2002) and "Zapata: Amor in rebeldia" (Telemundo, 2004), which cast him as the revolutionary leader, Emiliano Zapata. Further hits in the Latin film and arthouse markets included "Fuera del Cielo" ("Beyond Heaven") (2006) and "American Visa" (2007) as a Bolivian teacher desperate to reconnect with his son in America. So prolific were the careers of Bichir and his brothers during that time that the Mexican MTV Movie Awards created the category "Best Bichir in a Movie," which Demián won in 2003 for the fantasy "Don't Tempt Me" with Penelope Cruz.
The following year, while serving on the jury at the Ibiza Film Festival, he was contacted by director Steven Soderbergh, who asked him to play Fidel Castro in "Che" (2008), his sprawling, award-winning biopic of Che Guevara. That same year, he was tapped by the producers of "Weeds" (Showtime, 2005-12) to play Esteban Reyes, a ruthless mayor of Tijuana and husband of the show's main character, hapless would-be drug dealer Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker). In 2011, Bichir earned his star-making role in an American film with "A Better Life" (2011), a heart-rending drama about a humble Mexican gardener and illegal immigrant who loses a truck that was the key to improving his life and the life of his son. Directed by Chris Weitz and produced by Paul Junger Witt, the modest drama drew excellent reviews, with most of the praise going to the quiet strength of Bichir's performance. That same year, he earned a 2012 Independent Spirit Award nomination for this performance before receiving a surprising, but well-deserved nod for Best Actor at the Academy Awards. Bechir followed up that breakthrough with a supporting role in a major summer action comedy heat, playing Sandra Bullock's officious FBI superior in "The Heat" (2013). He returned to television opposite Diane Kruger in "The Bridge" (FX 2013-14), playing a jaded Juarez police officer trying to do his job amidst rampant crime and corruption.
By Paul Gaita
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Made onscreen acting debut on the Mexican <i>telenovela</i> "Rina"
U.S. acting debut, the TV-movie "Choices of the Heart" (NBC)
Landed a bit role in "The Penitent," starring Raul Julia and Armand Assante
Breakthrough performance in the Mexican box office hit "Sexo, pudor y lágrimas (Sex, Shame & Tears)"
Acted opposite Salma Hayek and Edward James Olmos in the Showtime movie "In the Time of the Butterflies"
Portrayed Latin American revolutionary in Emiliano Zapata in the Telemundo miniseries "Zapata: Amor en rebeldía"
Cast as Fidel Castro opposite Benicio Del Toro (as the title character) in Steven Soderbergh's two-part epic "Che"
Joined the cast of Showtime's "Weeds" as the corrupt mayor of Tijuana, Mexico
Delivered critically acclaimed performance in Chris Weitz directed drama "A Better Life"
Cast in Oliver Stone's ensemble crime drama "Savages," featuring John Travolta and Salma Hayek