Demián Bichir grew up in a family of performers. His father ran a theater in Mexico City, and his mother and two brothers are both actors. Bichir, 57, who earned his first screen role at just three years old, saw his career come into focus when he became only the second Mexican actor ever to receive an Academy Award nomination for best actor, for his commanding performance in Chris Weitz’s A Better Life. (The first was Anthony Quinn.)
That was 10 years ago. Alongside theater and independent films, Bichir has worked with some of the industry’s best-known directors, on films including Steven Soderbergh’s two-part historical biopic, Che (2008), in which he portrayed Fidel Castro. He also appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight (2015) and joined Ridley Scott’s much-lauded science-fiction franchise in Alien: Covenant (2017).
“I can only tell you it’s been a beautiful ride,” says Bichir.
It has also been a busy one. Over the last 12 months, the actor has participated in a jury—by Zoom, from his home in Los Angeles—for the Tribeca Film Festival. “We had a great time … William Hurt and Danny Boyle, we were chatting, sometimes for three hours,” he says.
Bichir earned his first screen role at just three years old. Later he became only the second Mexican actor ever to receive an Academy Award nomination for best actor.
Bichir’s foray into music was a moving one: the actor is releasing his debut album this spring, a creative project of notable significance as the key song, “Your Pretty Blue Smile,” is a reference to his wife, who died by suicide in 2019.
Perhaps as a distraction, Bichir has not let his film credits slow, either. Over the past six months alone, he has released three diametrically opposed films.
In the George Clooney–directed post-apocalyptic thriller, The Midnight Sky, which premiered in December, Bichir plays an astronaut careening back to Earth. (Bichir first met and struck up a friendship with Clooney at the 2012 Oscars, when they were both best-actor nominees.)
In February’s Land, a film about loss, grief, solitude, and self-discovery, Bichir stars alongside Robin Wright as her character’s sole friend and confidant. “I read the script, and I saw this is a character who’s very frugal in many different ways: frugal in movements, physically, emotionally. And that alone was fantastic,” says Bichir. The project also marks Wright’s directorial debut. “This is still a man’s world, and we need more women directors,” he says.
Most recently, Bichir appears in Godzilla vs. Kong, alongside Rebecca Hall and Alexander Skarsgård. Released at the end of March, it’s an adrenaline-driven monster mash-up that has already set a new pandemic record at the box office.
This diversity of projects and roles is something Bichir has cultivated and valued throughout his career. “I always wanted to be able to do lots of different things,” he says. “In this industry, sometimes they have a very narrow imagination. If you have played a wonderful gardener, they offer you 10 roles just like that. Only a few directors will take the risk with you and offer you different things. And that’s pretty much what I love.”
Bridget Arsenault is the London Editor for AIR MAIL