How many Spanish actors do you know? We take a look at some of the most famous.
Spanish actors have a strong reputation across the globe, offering a range of differing acting styles and abilities that are capable of achieving incredible performances time after time.
To find out more about Spain’s biggest stars, read on for our guide to the current Spanish TV and movie actors that are delighting audiences with their outstanding performances.
We’ll begin our list of great Spanish actors with arguably the most prolific of them all…
Antonio Banderas has enjoyed a long, fruitful movie career, rising to the top of the industry and earning worldwide acclaim for the depth of performance he is able to offer.
Banderas was born José Antonio Domínguez Banderas on August 10th, 1960 in the southern city of Malága in Spain, though he would later change his name to simply “Antonio Banderas” for acting work. Banderas was not originally drawn to acting, with football an early dream before a broken foot led him to study drama.
After building his experience as an actor, Banderas joined with the National Theatre of Spain, where he would meet the man who would go on to shape much of his career: Pedro Almodóvar.
Almodóvar cast Banderas in their first joint venture, Labyrinth of Passion, which was released in 1982. It would be the first of many films the duo would complete together.
Banderas’ career truly sparked to life when he was cast in the critically-acclaimed drama, Philadelphia, which was released in 1993. The groundbreaking film is primarily known for the Oscar-winning performance of the lead, Tom Hanks, but Banderas’ role as the title character’s lover drew plenty of attention to his own skills.
This breakthrough performance was later cemented through an appearance in Interview With the Vampire in 1994, with his mastery of the role of Armand cementing his status as a star.
Following these breakthrough roles, Banderas went on to star in a number of major films. He starred alongside Madonna in Evita in 1996, marking the second time the pair had partnered; they had also worked together in 1991 on In Bed With Madonna. More blockbuster roles followed, including The Mask of Zorro in 1998, as well as a well-received performance of artist David Alfaro Siquieros in Frida in 2002.
Over the course of much of the 2000s, Banderas originated roles and then starred subsequent sequels, including appearances in two Spy Kids movies and the second “Zorro” movie, The Legend of Zorro in 2005. He also starred in Shrek 2 in 2004 as Puss In Boots, with the character receiving his own spin-off in 2011, aptly entitled Puss In Boots.
Further roles have included further work with Pedro Almodóvar (The Skin I Live In, 2011), as well as The Expendables 3 in 2014, and The 33 in 2015. Banderas has also proved willing to expand beyond traditional movie roles, starring in the Netflix movie Security in 2017.
In addition to acting roles, Banderas has also taken to the stage, winning a Tony Award for ‘Best Actor’ in the musical Nine. Banderas has also proved to be adept behind the camera, directing two films, including Summer Rain in 2006.
Banderas is also a father – through his marriage to Melanie Griffith – to Stella, who was born in 1996. He and Griffith divorced in 2014, and Banderas has since begun a relationship with Dutch investment consultant Nicole Kimpel. Banderas splits his time between two properties; one in the USA, and one in the south of Spain.
Born in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria – part of the Spanish Canary Islands on March 1st, 1969, Javier Bardem has risen in prominence to become one of Spain’s most respected acting talents.
Bardem’s abilities are perhaps somewhat unsurprising; Bardem is the grandson of actors Rafael Bardem and Matilde Muñoz Sampedro, his mother Pilar Bardem is an actress, and he is the nephew of director Juan Antonio Bardem. Furthermore, two of Bardem’s siblings have become actors – it’s clearly the family business.
Initially, Javier built his name in Spanish movies, with The Ages of Lulu (Las Edades de Lulu, 1990), Jamón, jamón in 1992, and Golden Balls (Huevos de oro, 1993) highlighting the early half of his CV. Most of his earliest roles were relatively lighthearted, with Bardem playing a conventional “heartthrob” character.
Bardem would go on to expand his range, appearing as a police detective in The Detective and Death (El Detective y la muerte, 1994) and taking a turn in comedy with a role in Mouth to Mouth (Boca a boca) in 1995.
As with many Spanish actors, elements of Bardem’s career have been shaped by an association with filmmaker Pedro Almódovar. Bardem and Almódovar worked together in 1991 for High Heels (Tacones lejanos), and resumed their association in Carne trémula (Live Flesh) in 1997.
English-language roles soon followed, though the reception for Bardem’s early efforts was not particularly noteworthy. However, he would not have to wait long for the success his talent suggested him capable of, with a role in Before Night Falls in 2000 elevating his status substantially.
The film, in which Bardem plays Reinaldo Arenas – a Cuban writer and revolutionary who committed suicide in 2000 following an AIDS diagnosis – would prove to be the making of Bardem’s career.
To play the role, Bardem learned Cuban-Spanish, how to speak English with a Cuban accent, and lost over 30 pounds in weight; thankfully, his efforts were well-rewarded. The film won several major awards, and also saw Bardem become the first Spanish actor to be nominated for an Academy Award.
A number of well-received film roles soon followed, with Bardem gaining a reputation for being willing to take on challenging roles; in The Sea Inside in 2004, for example, he portrayed a quadriplegic man arguing for his right to die.
Bardem also received acclaim for his role in No Country For Old Men in 2007; Bardem starred with Tommy Lee Jones in a well-received film made by the Coen Brothers. He received a second Academy Award nomination for his performance, and this time, he won – becoming the first Spanish actor to win an Oscar in the process.
Following his standout performance in No Country For Old Men, Bardem also starred alongside his future wife, Penelope Cruz, in the Woody Allen film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, as well as taking the leading male role in Eat Pray Love in 2010. Bardem went on to star as the villain in the James Bond film, Skyfall, in 2012.
As well as acting, Bardem is a proficient sportsman, having represented the Spanish Under-21s national rugby team prior to pursuing acting as his main passion. Bardem is married to fellow Spaniard Penelope Cruz; the couple originally met while starring together in Jamón, jamón, but did not become a couple until 2007.
Since marrying in 2010 in the Bahamas, the couple have gone on to have two children together, Leo Encinas Cruz and Luna Encinas Cruz.
Both Antonio Banderas and Javier Bardem have built formidable reputations as skilled actors who are capable of crossing a number of genres. While few other Spanish actors have reached their legendary positions in the industry, there are nevertheless a few standout stars well worth keeping an eye out for, including…
Jordi Mollà was born on July 1st, 1968 in Barcelona, Spain. His career as an actor built steadily throughout his early life, culminating in Mollà receiving formal acting training at the prestigious Barcelona Institute of Theatre.
From there, he transitioned into professional roles, working with a number of prestigious directors, including Pedro Almodóvar and Fernando Colomo.
It was, however, the 1992 comedy-drama Jamón jamón that would prove to be his breakthrough role. Mollà played a corporate worker at a lingerie factory owned by his mother, whose life is changed when he meets an assembly line worker, Silvia, played by Penelope Cruz in her debut film.
Mollà’s character, Jose, announces his intention to marry Silvia, only for his mother – Stefania Sandrelli – to intervene by seeking to distract Silvia with Raul. Raul was portrayed by Cruz’s future husband, Javier Bardem. The film was a great success and proved a launchpad for Mollà’s future career, with the actor steadily building a long CV in Spanish-language films throughout the rest of the 90s.
While Mollà may not have enjoyed the crossover success of his Jamón jamón castmates, his first Hollywood performance eventually did follow. Mollà reunited with Cruz to star alongside Johnny Depp in Blow in 2001; the film is based on American cocaine smuggler George Jung, and received critical acclaim upon its release.
In 2003, he also starred in Bad Boys II, during which time his co-star Gabrielle Union labelled Mollà the “Tom Cruise of Spain”. While appearing in small roles in numerous Hollywood films since then – including a role in The Chronicles of Riddick in 2004 – much of Mollà’s subsequent career has focused on the Spanish-language films and parts that made his name.
In addition to acting, Mollà has gained a reputation as something of a Renaissance man thanks to his skills in numerous arts. He has directed two short films – one of which won the Generalitat De Cataluña National Cinematographic Award – as well as a feature film.
Furthermore, he has authored two books, and his artwork has been exhibited at PicassoMio Galleries and Sotheby’s Gallery in Madrid.
Óscar Jaenada was born Óscar Jaenada Gajo on May 4th, 1975 in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. Since then, he has built a reputation as a skilled actor – and one that has certainly been busy, given he has worked on over 40 films since 1999.
To UK audiences, Jaenada is arguably most recognisable from his 2011 role in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – a role for which he is billed simply as “The Spaniard”. In addition to this, Jaenada has also acted in films such as Cantinflas in 2014, as well as The Shallows, which starred Blake Lively, in 2016.
A particularly noteworthy role on Jaenada’s acting CV was his 2005 starring role in Camarón: When Flamenco Became A Legend. Playing the starring role in the biopic of legendary Spanish cantor, Camarón de la Isla. Jaenada’s performance received huge critical acclaim, culminating in him winning Best Actor at the Goya Awards.
Following a notable film career, Jaenada has turned his talents to the smaller screen, portraying Luis Rey in Luis Miguel on Netflix. The series, which was renewed for a second season in 2018, explores the life of the eponymous Mexican singer.
Away from acting, Jaenada is known for his desire for privacy. While rumours have abounded regarding on-set romances, Jaenada has always kept his private life to himself, making this talented actor one of the most enigmatic of his generation.
Luis Tosar was born Luis López Tosar on October 13th, 1971 in Lugo, Galicia, Spain. After studying history at the University of Santiago de Compostela, he turned his attention to acting, beginning his career with a number of different companies and productions.
Since his early start in theatre, Tosar has enjoyed great success in both TV shows and movies. His role as Andrés Domínguez in the Spanish TV series Mareas vivas is considered to be his big acting break; he appeared for 49 episodes in total between 1998 and 2001.
In terms of movies, Tosar is perhaps best known for his role as the villain in Miami Vice (released in 2006), though he has enjoyed a long, celebrated film career that has seen him win two Goya awards for Best Actor and one for Best Supporting Actor.
In recent years, he has enjoyed roles in Cell 211 in 2009 and Sleep Tight in 2011 (original title: Mientras duermes), in which he played a malevolent concierge determined to make life difficult for his building’s tenants.
In addition to acting, Tosar is a musician, and has his own group: The Ellas. While he is unmarried, he has been in a relationship with Spanish actress María Luisa Mayol since 2015. The couple shares a son, León Tosar, who was born on December 9th, 2015.
We hope you enjoyed our look at the lives and careers of some of Spain’s most famous actors! Who else do you think deserves a place on this list, and who will be the superstars of tomorrow? Let us know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.