Jorge Perugorria, Cuba's most famous actor, lives in Santa Fe, on the outskirts of Havana, in a house that reflects its owner's multi-faceted creative endeavors as well his readiness to throw a good party. Paintings Perrugorria's own work and that of assorted friends take up the available wall space. In the step-down bar off the main living room, you'll find a Steinway grand piano, a drum set and lyrics to a Carlos Varela song that was "born in this bar". You'll also find ample evidence that Perugorria is a family man. Steps leading from his garden down to the sea are inscribed "Pichi y Elbita", "Pichi" being his nickname and "Elbita" being a nickname for Elsa María Lafuente de la Paz, his wife and the mother of their four children.
Throughout Cuba and the rest of the world Perugorria is known as the blue-eyed hero of "Fresa y Chocolate" (Strawberry and Chocolate). The film won First Prize at the 1993 Havana Film Festival, a Special Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival the following year, and became, in 1995, the first Cuban film to be nominated for an Academy Award. Perugorria plays Diego, a gay bon vivant who befriends a straight university student named David. Exploring themes of tolerance and sexual politics, "Fresa y Chocolate", co-directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabío, opened a lot of people's eyes in Cuba, and it opened a lot of doors for Perugorria. It also led to countless interviews in which he's asked whether or not he is gay.
Perugorria was born in 1965 in Wajay, another neighborhood on the outskirts of Havana. He studied civil engineering until he got sidetracked into the theater. He played Shakespeare with the Olga Alonso troupe, directed by the great Humberto Rodríguez, and he starred in "The Glass Menagerie" with the Rita Montaner troupe. In the early 1990s Perugorria helped found Havana's Public Theatre, which made its debut with Jean Genet's "The Maids", in which Perugorria played the part of Clara. It would be the last time Perugorria would set foot on a stage. "I was playing Clara, so I was working on feminine, androgynous gestures that I would need for that role", Perugorria recalls. "Carlos Díaz [the legendary Cuban stage director, who worked with Perugorria on "The Maids"] showed my scenes to Titón [Tomás Gutiérrez Alea], and Titón was delighted with the whole gestural dimension I gave to the role of Clara. And that led to my first opportunity in cinema".
"I had been in a couple of TV series and short films, but my first real movie, my first big break was "Fresa y Chocolate". I showed up at the casting to audition for the role of David, who is the character who represents my generation. In the end, Titón said, "Listen, I already have several candidates for David, but I'd like to try you out for the role of Diego". And that really worried me, because I told myself that for Diego they'd want an actor with much more experience, an actor who was older than me because I was only 27 at the time and I hadn't done a lot of films. But after the tests I made, Titón said, "I want you to be Diego."
Perugorria has gone on to act in nearly 50 films, the most recent being Steven Soderbergh's "Che", and to direct a few of his own. And he has become one of Cuba's most effective cultural ambassadors. Earlier this year he organized an art exhibition in Mexico City to benefit the eastern Cuban city of Gibara, massively damaged by Hurricane Ike.
"After 'Fresa y Chocolate,' I arrived at a crossroads," Perugorria explains. "I took the road to continue to make Cuban movies, and I'm delighted, overjoyed at that decision, because the other option would have been to renounce all that and try to make a career in Hollywood. For a Cuban, going to live in Hollywood, or going to play Major League Baseball means renouncing your country. It's not only about doing another type of cinema. It means abandoning your family, leaving your country, your people, your city and for me that didn't make any sense. I said, no, I want to continue making Cuban movies."
Some movies he features
CHE - S.Soderbergh,2008
NOWHERE - L.Sepulveda, 2002
CARIBE - E.Ramirez, 2002
GUANTANAMERA - T.Gutierrez Alea & JC. Tabio, 1995
STRAWBERRY AND CHOCOLATE - T.Gutierrez Alea & JC. Tabio, 1993
- 1 Jorge Perugorría, Cuban actor
- 2 Jorge Perugorría, Cuban actor
- 3 Jorge Perugorría, Cuban actor
- 4 Jorge Perugorría, Cuban actor