Flashback to 1982. Raul Julia was nominated for a Tony Award for his magnificent performance in NINE.
I was at the awards event, and a man came up to me and said, “You’re father is a great actor.” I looked at him quizzically. Then he added. “You must be proud to be Raúl Juliá’s son”.
I smiled. “I should be so lucky”, I told him. to him he encountered with, “You look just like him”!
I should be so lucky. One of my favorite performers—and one of the world’s—was taken from us way too early. In 1993, he was diagnosed with cancer, but he continued to act, playing rainforest activist Chico Mendez in the television movie The Burning Season (1994), for which he posthumously won Golden Globe, SAG and Emmy Awards. Juliá’s brilliant and daring career was tragically cut short by his untimely death in 1994, at age 54.
PBS Distribution has released Raúl Juliá: The World’s a Stage, a special presentation of THIRTEEN’s American Masters and Latino Public Broadcasting’s VOCES. This documentary is a warm and revealing portrait of the charismatic, groundbreaking actor, from his journey from his native Puerto Rico to the creative hotbed of ’60s New York City, to prominence on Broadway and in Hollywood.
Filled with passion, determination and joy and told in his own voice through archival interviews and in the words of those who knew him best, the film traces Juliá’s personal and professional life while showcasing performances from his collaboration with Joseph Papp’s The Public Theater to his successful cinematic career. His best-known roles include the history-making productions of Titus Andronicus, Two Gentlemen of Verona with Clifton Davis, The Taming of the Shrew with Meryl Streep and The Threepenny Opera (for which he was nominated for a Tony for his role as Macheath); the Broadway musical Nine and Dracula; and films such as Kiss of the Spider Woman, Moon Over Parador, The Eyes of Laura Mars, Romero, Presumed Innocent and The Addams Family.
Interviews with some of the most respected actors who worked alongside Juliá, including Anjelica Huston, Edward James Olmos, Rita Moreno, James Earl Jones, Sonia Braga, Rubén Blades and Esai Morales, illuminate his impact as an artist. In addition, actors John Leguizamo, Jimmy Smits, Andy Garcia and others share how they were profoundly influenced by Juliá and carry the torch of his legacy. Juliá’s personal side comes to life through never-before-seen family photos and home videos, along with reminiscences from his wife, Merel, his sons, relatives and friends, who share candid insights about his life away from the spotlight.
Ever-present throughout Juliá’s story is the cultural landscape of the entertainment world and the boundaries he broke. Before diversity and inclusion efforts were part of the national conversation, the big man with the engaging personality and accent was able to amass a varied body of timeless work that helped pave the way for Latino actors today. He was also a passionate and pioneering advocate of social causes, including ending hunger. In Juliá’s words, “It’s all done within a context of love. That’s the beauty of it, you see?”