top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Ricardo Darín: Argentina’s lucky charm at the Oscars

Ricardo Darin, Argentina’s most celebrated film star internationally, at the Sunset Tower Hotel in West Hollywood, Calif., Feb. 12, 2023. When Argentina has a film nominated for an Academy Award, it has usually starred this veteran actor, but he says that other people have believed in his talent more than he has.

By Carlos Aguilar

Fortune has long favored Ricardo Darín. More than the subjective concept of talent, it is providence, manifested as other people’s unwavering confidence in his abilities, that the actor credits for his storied career as Argentina’s most celebrated film star internationally.

“I’ve had all the luck that my parents didn’t have as actors,” he said in Spanish during a recent interview at the Sunset Tower Hotel. “Many times people have valued me far more than I value myself, and I often think, ‘Do I deserve all that?’”

The latest example of his relationship with Lady Luck is his turn as real-life prosecutor Julio Strassera in “Argentina, 1985,” a historical courtroom drama about the Trial of the Juntas, when military leaders were tried for human rights violations during the former dictatorship. Directed by Santiago Mitre, it earned Argentina an Oscar nomination for best international feature film.

Darín seems to be his country’s lucky charm when it comes to the Academy Awards. He has starred in all four movies to earn Argentina a nod this century, including “Son of the Bride,” “Wild Tales” and “The Secret in Their Eyes,” which took home the statuette in 2010. Argentina has submitted several other Darín-led productions to the academy over the years — meaning that even though they didn’t all make the cut, the films in which he appears are almost synonymous with the best of Argentine cinema.

From the first handshake, Darín, 66, radiates a welcoming aura. Casually dressed in bluejeans and a navy sweater, he speaks with a warmth and candor that most people reserve for their closest friends. That temperament translates onscreen.

“Ricardo has an immense power to elicit empathy from the audience, and that’s rare,” said director Juan José Campanella, who has collaborated with Darín on four features.

Though the actor inherited a passion for performance from his parents, who were working actors in Buenos Aires, neither was enthusiastic about his carrying on the family’s craft.

“They didn’t fight me on it, but they also didn’t encourage me to do it,” he recalled.

Darín thinks of his path as preordained. He was a regular on film and TV sets and theater stages in childhood, first acting professionally at 3 in the 1960 series “Soledad Monsalvo.” At 10 he debuted onstage alongside his parents. By the time he attended his first theater workshop at 14, Darín felt like a seasoned veteran who had already experienced many facets of the job firsthand.

In the 1990s, Darín found immense success in the sitcom “Mi Cuñado” (“My Brother-in-Law”) as an impertinent but charming screw-up. His contract restricted him from other TV ventures but allowed him to pursue films. Among them was his first outing with Campanella, “The Same Love, the Same Rain” (1999), which helped other directors see beyond his TV persona.

One of them, Fabián Bielinsky, cast him in the thriller “Nine Queens” (released in Argentina in 2000) as a sleazy con man.

“He told me, ‘I hadn’t thought about you for this role. You are too charismatic, and I don’t want the audience to have any empathy for him,’” Darín recalled.

In Campanella’s view, “There’s only one thing Ricardo cannot be, and that is unlikable. The clearest proof is ‘Nine Queens,’ where he plays an amoral crook, but we still root for him.”

Campanella’s heartfelt “Son of the Bride” arrived the next year and mined Darín’s comic sensibilities for the role of a restaurant owner dealing with his aging parents.

“Once an Argentine critic called him ‘our Henry Fonda’ because he projects great integrity,” Campanella said. “But he has something that Fonda didn’t, which is a great sense of humor.”

Darín maintains that it was the one-two punch of “Nine Queens” and “Son of the Bride” that cemented his film career.

“It was a great calling card for an actor to have the possibility of showing two absolutely opposite facets almost at once,” Darín said. “Even though I was already well known for TV and theater, that’s when I started to feel my colleagues were seeing me in a better light.”

Since then, he has enjoyed his choice of roles, including Campanella’s acclaimed “The Secret in Their Eyes,” in which he starred as an investigator haunted by a gruesome, unresolved case.

Another of Darín’s personal favorites is the dramedy “Truman” (2017), centered on a terminally ill man spending his final days alongside his best friends, one human and one canine. His wry character reminded Darín of his late father, also named Ricardo Darín, whom he described as a peculiar Renaissance man with an acid sense of humor and wild ideas that others found difficult to digest.

Hollywood has reached out a handful of times, but he has declined, mostly because the most difficult thing for an actor to do is to think in another language, he said, adding that close-ups reveal when someone is reciting from memory rather than inhabiting an emotion.

“I’ve always trusted my gut more than my heart or my head,” Darín explained, then added, motioning to his stomach, “I trust in how the material hits me right here.”

In Argentina, his turn in Damián Szifron’s “Wild Tales” (released stateside in 2015) as a frustrated citizen who fights back against oppressive bureaucracy was widely embraced by audiences.

“Ricardo has a lucid outlook on the realities that affect his country,” Szifron said. “He is a popular figure while at the same time being a sophisticated actor.”

For “Argentina, 1985,” Mitre and Darín agreed not to mimic the voice or exact mannerisms of the real Strassera, but instead took a degree of artistic liberty in their re-creation.

Mitre, who had directed Darín as a fictional Argentine president in the 2017 political saga “The Summit,” said he admired how the actor produces a truthful performance through a synthesis of his own sensibilities and the character’s.

“It’s as if the camera could capture him in his entirety, show him in all his complexity,” Mitre said. “Whenever you see Ricardo act, you know there will be great honesty onscreen.”

12 views0 comments


bottom of page