He had two options: take the risk or miss the opportunity. He’d been following the story for over a year. The capture. The prison break. The mile long tunnel and motorcycle. This man was not to be taken lightly. He was something like a legend, the world’s most wanted man. There was no doubt about it; it was a once in a lifetime chance. So he boarded the plane to a small city in the middle of Mexico. After another two hour flight and a hike through a lush jungle, a seven hour ride passing through random bits of farmland surrounded by more forest, a military checkpoint and more forest, he reached the designated location. There he is, “the world’s most famous fugitive.” Dressed in a silky shirt and pressed pants, he reaches out his hand. While the entire scenario feels like something straight out of a Hollywood thriller, it’s not. But it is about a movie, a movie Joaquin Gomez, also known as “El Chapo,” wanted to make about his life. Interestingly enough, it’s actor, filmmaker and political activist Sean Penn meeting with Mexico’s infamous drug lord.

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Never one to shy away from controversy, Penn, whether acting or not, has always been all about the action. From his film debut in Taps to his Academy Award winning role in Mystic River, Penn has always had a knack for playing complex characters not afraid to cross the line. In All the King’s Men, Penn portrays a politician straddling the line between power and corruption. In Milk, for which he won another Academy Award, Penn plays the role of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician elected into office in California. But he’s just as controversial off screen as he is in front of the camera. When he isn’t acting, he’s working as a political and social activist. More than willing to question those in position of power, Penn’s activism includes foreign policy, privacy issues, the role of media and the War in Iraq. “…One of the big things where we have to recognize we are complicit,” he told Al Jazeera while criticizing what we calls the American culture of complaint, “is that we have been far too comfort-addicted, which has led us to be reluctant to boycott corporate interests which are lobbying these policies in government.” Penn’s overwhelming philanthropy and charity work match his strong words. Besides actually touring Iraq to observe the war, the award winning actor joined rescue workers going door to door searching for Hurricane Katrina survivors. His nonprofit organization in Haiti demonstrates the actor’s passion for helping others.

Hollywood actor Sean Penn attends the 2014 Frontline Defenders Award Ceremony held at Dublin City Hall. Featuring: Sean Penn Where: Dublin, Ireland When: 07 Mar 2014 Credit: WENN.com **Not available for publication in Irish Tabloids or Irish magazines**
Hollywood actor Sean Penn attends the 2014 Frontline Defenders Award Ceremony held at Dublin City Hall.
Featuring: Sean Penn
Where: Dublin, Ireland
When: 07 Mar 2014
Credit: WENN.com
**Not available for publication in Irish Tabloids or Irish magazines**

Founded in 2010, J/P Haitian Relief Organization was created in response to the earthquake that nearly destroyed Haiti. Penn’s son Hopper was recovering from a skateboarding accident when he became aware of what he called the “Civil War” medicine style administered throughout the nation. What was supposed to be a two week trip relief effort ended up being a nonprofit organization that focuses on four key areas: medical camps, relocation management, community development and engineering and construction. “When you look down a city block of devastation and you see the pain and the death, you feel like, I can fix this,” he told CBS. He later realized that “it wasn’t about fixing [Haiti] anymore, it was about helping as much as you could.” Even after spending millions of dollars of his own money and living in a house with 20 volunteers, Penn’s just as determined to help empower the people of Haiti.

It takes a certain kind of person to navigate the worlds of acting, philanthropy and activism. It requires passion and diligence, risk taking and patience. It’s not for the faint of heart or for those afraid of backlash. It is most certainly not for those afraid to sit down and talk with people, even if they are the most wanted fugitive in the world.

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As “El Chapo” stretched out his hand toward the actor-turned GI-Joe-turned journalistic investigator, Penn returns the favor and the two shake hands, “El Chapo” eventually embracing Penn with a “commadre hug.” They share tacos and tequila and even take a picture together. “I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anybody else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines, airplanes, trucks and boats,” “El Chapo” admits boldly and unapologetically as Penn, and “El Chapo’s,” friends and family sit at the dinner table. It’s odd. Unexpected and slightly unnerving. The drug lord agrees to let Penn interview him. But plans fall through, the military gets involved and suspicions arise. Instead of a face to face sit down, the interview will have to take place over the phone. And it does. But as the world watches “El Chapo” speak about his life on a video recorded on a Blackberry phone in an undisclosed location, so do the authorities that have been searching for him for months. Very much like an unexpected plot twist, the drug lord is captured and arrested. Penn, far away, but very much involved, publishes his article in Rolling Stone. Though praised by some and condemned by others, the actor has once again managed to create an action filled drama that has everyone wondering what’s next.

Sharita Gilmore

There is no handbook to guide you on how to be successful. Different strokes for different folks. What’s good for the goose, isn’t always good for the gander. While the cliches about how one’s pathway to success doesn’t always work for everyone are nearly infinite, they all tell the same truth. They also encourage you to find your own way instead of mimicking what has already been done. Be a risk taker! Well, at least that’s what I get from them. Alfonso Cuaron and I may just think along those same lines, having carved his own path to success in the world of film. As well as taking a few risks along the way, setting a standard through his vision for his films to become top-tier.

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Who is Alfonso Cuaron, though? Well, he’s someone that has directed a couple of the generation’s impactful films. His most recent work, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and the most successful of Alfonso’s films, Gravity, have elevated him into an elite class of film directors. His journey to get there was quite different than many of his contemporaries, but movies were his first love.

His passion for movies stems from growing up in a household where his mother was an avid movie goer. Her love for movies was inherited by Alfonso and carried out in his pursuit to become a movie director. Alfonso was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico, where he would also go on to film school. Alfonso attended National Autonomous University of Mexico, but he wasn’t allowed to finish school however. In fact, Alfonso was kicked out of film school for violating a rule, that being his participation in a film that was done in English. While the punishment seemed to be a bit overboard, Alfonso wouldn’t let that setback be the end of him chasing his dream.

 

Alfonso continued to search for avenues to use the skills he had, and worked in television for a while. After years of working in television, he was given the opportunity to direct his first film. The 1992 film entitled Solo Con Tu Pareja, was released in English and Spanish. The English version was called Love in the Time of Hysteria, was a great way for him to get his feet wet as a director, and showcase his humorous side. The film also gave Alfonso a chance to work and co-write with his brother, Carlos. The film had a great deal of success in Mexico.

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Alfonso would go on to later work on English films, and switched up the genres a bit to show his versatility. He also enjoyed better success here, and worked on one of the generation’s blockbuster Harry Potter movies, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. This was another opportunity to delve into a different genre. Not only was this going to be his first time working on a kids film, but he hadn’t even read the book before working on the movie. How crazy is that?

Just last year, he was generating Academy Awards buzz for his work on the Sci-Fi hit, “Gravity”. This film starred two of Hollywood’s most decorated actors; George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. The movie was one of 2013’s best films as evident by having held the number one spot two weeks in a row. Gravity also received several Academy awards, including Alfonso’s for Best Director.

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“Gravity” was a different caliber than anything Alfonso had done before. It was just a different feel, and to have a chance to team up with his son as a father-son directing and screenwriting duo? That made for what was an incredibly special movie, and experience for all that were involved. And then of course you factor in the opportunity to work with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock on the same project.

Gravity was a 3-D space suspense film that was inevitably going to be great. From the cast, to the storyline, to the special effects and cinematography, there was all the components for a award-winning picture. It also gave Alfonso the smash hit that makes his resume one of the more respected in the film industry today. Not only has he proven that he can work in multiple genres, in English or Spanish, but he can do so with the best of them. While Alfonso’s uniqueness to take on the challenge of different genres puts him in a class all his own, some people question his untraditional path. As Alfonso told The New York Times, “A director I respect once told me: ‘You’re too much like a pendulum. You have to find your center.’ But I just do what I feel is the right thing at the time. I don’t think it’s a flaw.” He continued, “But, on the other hand, almost all the directors I admire do have a constant or common thread in their work.”

These days, Alfonso is back to working in the television department, and doing pretty well. Alfonso directed the pilot for NBC’s debut drama series, Believe. The show is a suspense filled story of a 10-year-old born with special telekinetic powers among others, struggling to control them as they continue to increase. Again, something rather different for him.

Sometimes the road less traveled is the most rewarding. After being dismissed from school and refusing to choose a niche, Alfonso Cuaron has found a way to become mentioned in the class with today’s greats. All of which was done while collaborating with his brother and son along the way, sharing the the limelight.

– Blake Holmes

I first remember seeing Guillermo Díaz as “Scarface” from the movie Half Baked. His character was a stereotypical stoner, but his performance was hilarious and memorable. Even though the movie was more of a cult classic, it bolstered Díaz’s acting career. Díaz has been frequently typecast in roles such as thugs, drug dealers, and drug addicts, but he’s also shown his versatility by portraying a drag queen, a nurse, and most recently a former black ops agent and assassin.

Díaz grew up in Washington Heights, Manhattan and is of Cuban descent. His parents only speak Spanish, so Díaz and his brothers learned English by watching T.V. and going to school. He attended Catholic school at St. Nicholas of Tolentine and first got interested in acting by performing at the school’s talent show. For his act, Díaz and a couple of his friends lip synched songs by the Beastie Boys. He later performed in school film, plays, and indie films before joining a theater company called INTAR, now known as Labyrinth.

gdi3Outside the realm of acting, Díaz had to deal with the harsh reality of his environment. His school was near a rough and violent neighborhood, and he was mugged on numerous occasions. At one point he was even pistol-whipped which left a permanent scar on his head. As he told Out, an LGBT magazine, “I went to school in the Bronx. I learned to constantly try to cover up the fact that I was gay. That façade of being somebody I’m really not just to protect myself definitely helped with acting.”

While Díaz initially had to hide his sexuality as a means of survival, he’s been openly gay his entire professional career. When he first broke into the film industry, his managers did not want him to disclose his sexuality. However, he refused to stay in the closet, even at the risk of potentially restricting his acting opportunities. “I guess I was always out. I never even thought about trying,” Díaz explained to NewNowNext.com, the blogsite of LGBT network Logo. “I mean, I did think about it, because there were always managers and sh** wanting me to stay in the closet, and I was like, ‘Uh, yeah, I’m out.’ I’ve just always been myself […] Everybody knows my boyfriend. And I work all the time. I play straight guys. I play mean guys. I think people make more of a thing about it if you’re sort of mysterious and you don’t want to talk about it and you’re in the closet, then it becomes more a thing.”

gdi2Díaz’s first major role was as La Miranda, a drag queen in the 1995 film Stonewall. This role was particularly important to Díaz because he was able to completely and authentically immerse himself in the role. “The role I’m most proud of is La Miranda in Stonewall,” Díaz told Latino culture magazine Simply Latino! “It was such an amazing experience working on this film. It feels good to have a film that really is important for people to see, especially young gay people, so they can see what a long road it’s been to have the freedoms that we have today, although we still have a long way to go.”

Díaz would later go on to star in Half Baked and make guest appearances on Chappelle’s Show. His next major role was as drug trafficker Guillermo García Gómez on the Showtime series Weeds. At the time, this was Díaz’s most gritty and violent portrayal, but he embraced the role nonetheless. “I always get a kick out of being cast in those roles,” he explained to Out. “Guillermo on Weeds is hardcore—trafficking young girls for prostitution, weapons, [and] heroin. And I’m so the opposite: a big old nerd.” Díaz also portrayed Nurse Ángel García on the short-lived medical drama Mercy. He later played a Latino gangster in the 2010 film Cop Out.

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Since 2012, Díaz has portrayed Diego Muñoz, a.k.a. “Huck” on Scandal. Huck is volatile, sadistic, and complex at the same time which has allowed Díaz to showcase his acting range with one character. The show has been a critical success and won several awards including the Favorite Drama Series during the TV Guide Awards in 2013 and TV Program of the Year in 2014 from the AFI Awards. Díaz was nominated for Best Actor in Television during the Imagen Foundation Awards in 2013 and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2014 and 2015 during the Image Awards.

Guillermo Díaz’s ability to seamlessly shift between comedic and serious roles is impressive. His integrity is equally impressive because he never once compromised his identity. With the sustained success of Scandal, Díaz’s popularity is continuing to grow, and he’s sure to get even more acting opportunities in the future.

-Elijah Yarbrough