Hector Elizondo – Man Of A Thousand Faces

(an interview with actor Hector Elizondo, discussing topics from his earliest auditions to his later film work)

“Hector Elizondo.” The secretary checked her appointment book. “Yes, you’re right,” she said nonchalantly. “Maybe they were running late. They shouldn’t be too long, if you want to wait,” she said with a smile.

“What?!” he asked, his voice rising. He paused for a moment. “Never mind, I’ll wait,” he said. After another hour and a half the three men returned. By this time the simmering Elizondo had told himself he was quitting the business, but not before he gave them a piece of his mind.

He held it together and auditioned for the part of God, disguised as a Puerto Rican steam bath attendant. When he finished he let loose and slammed the script on the table. “How do you people make an appointment with somebody and let them wait for an hour and a half…and then go to lunch?!” The three men sat wide-eyed and speechless. “You know,” he said, his voice straining, “having bad manners is much worse than being poor.” He turned to walk off the stage, stopped, and turned back. “If any of you have a problem with this, I’ll meet any of you out on the street and we’ll settle this now.”

Later that afternoon he arrived home to tell his wife he was hanging up this acting thing and that he was going to join the police force or act on a childhood dream–and become a social studies teacher. Before he could say more, his wife said his agent had called and that they loved him. He had the part. In fact, his performance earned him an Obie. Elizondo was the first Latino male to earn the award.

Although he was grateful for the part, the anger he felt at being mistreated and the injustice of it has been a driving force that has shaped his professional career and cemented a code of conduct he lives by.