Talented Actor Raúl Juliá

Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 9 March 1940, Raúl Rafael Carlos Juliá y Arcelay became a well-known actor, who was involved in various humanitarian activities. Juliá was inspired to become an actor when he watched Errol Flynn in “The Adventures of Robin Hood”. During his school years and while studying he would take part in and organise plays. Raúl Juliá was finally discovered by Orson Bean while performing at a nightclub in San Juan. He was encouraged by Bean to move to New York City in 1964, where he soon began acting in plays.

Juliá enjoyed great success as a stage actor, particularly in a variety of Shakespearean roles. Joseph Papp attended a performance, during which Raúl Juliá was reading Puerto Rican poetry. Papp was moved to offer him the opportunity to join the New York Shakespeare Festival. Juliá’s performance in “Two Gentlemen of Verona” earned him a Drama Desk Award, as well as a Tony Award nomination.

Raúl Juliá made it on to TV in the series “Love of Life” and “Sesame Street”. In 1971 he acted in three films: “The Organisation”, “Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me”, and “The Panic in Needle Park”. From then on, Juliá was shooting for the stars. One of his greatest roles was that of Valentin Arregui in “Kiss of the Spider Woman”, brought out in 1985. His role as a political prisoner won him the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Award for Best Actor and a Golden Globe nomination.

Other roles played by Juliá included the iconic Gomez Addams in the Addams Family movies, and Chico Mendes in “The Burning Season”. His exceptional acting as Mendes saw Juliá winning a Primetime Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award. His final major role was that of General M.Bison in “Street Fighter”.

Sadly Raúl Juliá became ill in 1994 and had a stroke, resulting in his death on 24 October 1994. He was buried in Puerto Rico during a state funeral, which saw thousands of fans flocking to bid a final farewell to this talented actor.

Raúl Juliá’s contribution to the world of acting, as well as his various humanitarian works will not be forgotten. He has been memorialised in a number of ways, with the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre’s actor training unit being named the Raúl Juliá Training Unit and the Raúl Juliá Award for Excellence being created by the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts (NHFA).