If there is one word that perfectly describes John Leguizamo, it is multi-talented. The Colombian-born American is not just a prolific actor but is also a renowned comic. Additionally, he is a producer and playwright, famous for his one-man stage shows, which often satirizes American Latino stereotypes.
His career has made him a lot of money, and off-screen, he has been in two marriages. Life is an adventure, and John Leguizamo has lived one of the most fulfilling ones. From Bogota to Queens, he has taken every negativity thrown at him and woven the tapestry that it is his interesting life.
Neighbourhood Bullying Helped Develop His Funny Bone
John Alberto Leguizamo was born on July 22, 1964, in Bogota, the capital of Colombia. His father’s name is Alberto, while his mother’s name is Luz Leguizamo. The actor/comic also has a brother named Sergio and two sisters, Marie and Emily. Leguizamo spent the first four years of his life in Colombia before his family emigrated to New York, searching for greener pastures.
He grew up in Queens and Jackson Heights, attending Joseph Pulitzer Middle School and Murry Bergtraum High School. Leguizamo’s journey into comedy could be said to be accidental. The future Hollywood star grew up in various rough neighborhoods in Queens. As a result, he had to become funny to talk his way out of a potential beating.
Having acquired his comic skills early on, Leguizamo decided to pursue a career in the performance arts. He began writing comedy material at Murry Bergtraum. John often tested their quality on his classmates, who ended up voting him Most Talkative. After high school, he headed to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and studied theatre.
Like the comics that came before him and after him, John dropped out in favor of a stand-up comedy career. He did, however, return to school at Long Island University and HB Studio and studied theatre.
His Career Began as a Stand-Up Comic, and He Has a Career Long Reputation as a One-Man Performer
John Leguizamo commenced his career as a stand-up comic in New York in 1984. He spent much of his early days touring various night clubs in the city and soon made a name for himself thanks to his excellent performances. However, it is his one-man stage performances that have brought John his accolades as a comedian.
Leguizamo debuted his first one-man stage show, Mambo Mouth, in 1991. In it, he played seven different characters, winning a couple of awards for his efforts. He won an Obie Award and an Outer Critics Award. Since then, he has launched other one-man shows such as Spic-O-Rama (1993), Freak (1998) Sexaholix…A Love Story (2002), Klass Klown (2010), and Latino History for Morons (2017).
Most of his shows often poke fun at Latino stereotypes or dramatize his life as an entertainer or family man. Freak, for instance, was a semi-autobiographical play and Sexaholix… A Love Story explored his love life and how he became a family man.
Regardless of whatever story John Leguizamo is telling in his plays, they often draw awards and recognition. He has at least two Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards and four Cable ACE Awards. He also has a Tony Award nomination and the American Ingenuity Award from the Smithsonian Magazine.
Super Mario Bros. and Carlito’s Way Brought John Leguizamo Fame
He might be an undeniable star of Broadway and stage plays in general, but it is John’s work on-screen that has brought him the most fame and success. His first on-screen work came in 1984 as an unnamed character in Madonna’s Borderline music video.
In the same year, he made his TV debut as Macetero in Mixed Blood and two years after, had a three-episode run as Orlando Calderone in Miami Vice. Although he started his career on television, film became the primary outlet of Leguizamo’s on-screen creativity.
He made his first film appearance in 1989, as Diaz in Casualties of War. He had appeared in several films, including Die Hard 2 and Poison, before finding his first taste of success in a leading role as Luigi Mario in Super Mario Bros. The film, based on the Mario video game franchise, was a critical and commercial failure. Still, his performance opened the door to other roles.
In the same year, he starred as a supporting actor in the Al Pacino crime film, Carlito’s Way. He played Benny Blanco, an up-and-coming gangster, and Carlito’s nemesis. John and the film received critical praise, and his prominent role in the film exposed him to millions of viewers.
It also contributed to his growing reputation as a leading performer, sparking a run on the big screen that has lasted to date. Since 1993, John Leguizamo has appeared in more than 86 films, with notable roles in Romeo + Juliet, Spawn, Land of the Dead, John Wick, etc.
Often playing a supporting lead, some of his performances have received recognition from award bodies. His role as the drag queen, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Other award-nominated performances include Mauricio Rodriguez in Nothing Like the Holidays, Toulouse-Lautrec in Moulin Rouge, and Seymour in King of the Jungle.
Television Shows and Animated Works Are Major Parts of John’s Extensive Filmography
Although compared to his film appearances, they are far in between; John Leguizamo has quite the presence on television. His most recent run as Raymond Santana Sr, in Netflix’s When They See Us, earned him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series.
Before that, he starred in three episodes of Waco as Jacob Vazquez, earning another Emmy nomination. Other TV show appearances include Bloodline, The Kill Point, My Name Is Earl, ER, Arabian Nights, House of Buggin, and others.
Aside from TV, the Columbia-born actor is also quite the voice actor, with plenty of works to his name across TV and film. His first voice role came 14 years into his career, in Doctor Dolittle. It was a minor role, and his character had no name. However, he did a get a chance to let his voice shine in his second go-around as Spanish Fly in the animated film, Titan A.E in 2000.
Two years after, he began voicing one of the most successful voice roles of his career, Sid, in the DreamWorks comedy, Ice Age. He has voiced the character across all four films and three video games. Speaking of video games, John Leguizamo also brought Globox to life in the 2003 platform game, Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc.
His Filmography Has More Than 130+ Credits, Over 27 Award Nominations, and 14 Wins
Between his filmed one-stage plays, film, TV, and animation roles, John Leguizamo’s filmography has more than 130 credits. An additional six projects, across film and TV, have also been announced or in production, bringing the actor’s potential credits to more than 140.
His talent, longevity, and hard work have been rewarded with more than 27 awards nominations and 14 wins. The filmed version of his one-man play, Freak, earned him his only Emmy win so far, out of four nominations. It also got him an ALMA Award for Outstanding Performance by an Individual in a Comedy Special. Other wins include AAFCA TV Honors as Best Ensemble for When They See Us and the 2009 ALMA Award for Entertainer of the Year.
John Leguizamo is Also an Accomplished Behind the Scenes Filmmaker
You may not know this, but John Leguizamo has just as much experience working behind the camera as he does in front of it. He is a producer with a production company, NGL Studios, under the media company umbrella of NGL Media. The studio and media company focus on creating and marketing Latino-focused content.
He became a producer the first time in 1995, as executive producer of the TV show, House of Buggin’. Since then, he has produced an additional 20 works as of 2020. The bulk of his production work is in feature films, his comedy specials and documentaries. Some of them are Empire, Undefeated, Inocente, Taxi 22, Pinero, Fugly! and The Pest.
John is also a writer, and he has 14 credited works to his name. He wrote all ten episodes of the sketch comedy, House of Buggin’. He also wrote the screenplay for Fugly! and the script to the TV movie, King John. His other writing credits include John Leguizamo: Spic-O-Rama, Undefeated, and The Pest.
Besides writing and producing, John has also dabbled in directing, although not as much as the former. He has two directorial works to his name – the TV movie, Undefeated, and Critical Thinking.
He helmed the camera for the latter in 2020, signaling perhaps an active return to the role. The film, based on the first inner-city team to win the US National Chess Championship, received excellent critical reception, with a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
More than Three Decades in Front and Behind the Camera Has Earned Him a $25 Million Net Worth
John Leguizamo’s father, Alberto Leguizamo, was once an aspiring film director who studied at Cinecitta. Sadly, he could not afford the cost of the studies, and he dropped out, essentially ending the dream. He moved his family to the United States, and his son grew up to share that dream.
John has lived that dream for his family, not only with remarkable longevity and lots of critical praise but a great deal of financial success. His career has made him a $25 million net worth, earned through salaries from more than 90 films in live-action and animation, over 40 TV projects, short films, etc.
His work behind the scenes has also made a larger share of the profit pie. Other sources of income include ticket sales from his theatre plays and royalties from sold copies of his comedy routines. In 2001, RCA/BMG Records released John Leguizamo LIVE, a compilation of various stage routines.
In October 2006, he released his memoir, Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas, and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends: My Life. The book dived into his career in Hollywood and his life experiences so far, with plenty of salacious details. A graphic novel adaptation of his one-man Broadway show, Ghetto Klown, was also released in October 2015.
A Lot of His Money Has Gone into Real Estate
He is not one to flash the cash, but over the years, we have learned a few things the Ice Age actor has spent his millions on. In 2008, he paid $5.75 million for a townhouse in Manhattan’s Washington Square area. He also reportedly owns a 1,399 condominium in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, which he bought in October 2005 for an undisclosed sum.
His most recent known transaction came in 2011 when he listed a lake house in Kingston, New York, for $835,000. Beyond his real estate expenses, John Leguizamo notably lives a simple life out of his New York residence, so much that he regularly rides the train like a normie.
The Ice Age Actor’s First Marriage Ended Over Domestic Abuse
John Leguizamo has been married on two occasions. His first marriage was to actress Yelba Osorio, in 1994, about three years after they met in 1991. She made her on-screen debut about a year before their wedding in 1993. To date, Yelba has gone on to accrue 30+ credits, mostly in minor roles on television.
While her career has continued for years, the marriage itself ended after two years, in 1994. After eloping to marry on an exciting trip to Las Vegas, the marriage ended tragically, with John claiming he has suffered domestic abuse from his wife throughout their marriage. According to Leguizamo, she cut off sex, assaulted him, and hated his dog.
In their respective divorce filing, Yelba admitted she was abusive to John but denied other claims from the actor. The two of them reportedly parted ways after reaching an amicable divorce settlement.
His Second Marriage to Justine Maurer Has Lasted Over 17 Years
After the negative experience of his first marriage, John Leguizamo got back on the marital horse for the second time with Hollywood costumer, Justine Maurer. The two reportedly met for the first time on the set of Carlito’s Way in 1993. At the time, he was married to Yelba.
We are not sure when exactly their relationship began. But in 1999, presumably several months into their romance, they welcomed their first child, a daughter, Allegra Sky Leguizamo, born on October 23, 1999. Their second child, a son, Ryder Lee ‘Lucas’ Leguizamo, was born on December 5, 2000.
John and Justine finally got married in 2003, on June 28 in an elaborate Jewish and Catholic ceremony in Mexico. Their daughter was the flower girl, and their son was the ring bearer. The joy of their wedding day has mostly remained to date, as evident from the actor’s Instagram page.
Since his children became old enough, both have dabbled into their father’s profession. Lucas voiced a couple of characters in two Ice Age films, Continental Drift and Dawn of the Dinosaurs. While Allegra essentially did the same, she is further along the acting ride with a live-action appearance in the short film, Lockdown, in 2019.
We will have to wait and see if they fully follow in John Leguizamo’s path, but for now, the actor can be happy his second attempt at marriage has been a success.