Fed up of tired old Hollywood autobiographies, that are more interested in buttering people up for the next job as opposed to telling it as it is? So’s John Leguizamo. That perhaps explains why his book is once of the most candid seen in recent times from a working actor. He ain’t afraid to call it as it is, and frequently does.
Leguizamo, of course, is a veteran of films as varied as To Wong Foo and Carlito’s Way, through to Super Mario Bros and Romeo & Juliet. But his background goes further than that, and the book digs into his childhood in Queens, and how it influenced his further career. It does it too in such a chatty, borderline bitchy style, that it’s hard not to be drawn in. Often hilarious, occasionally patchy, you nonetheless can’t help but be drawn into the tales he tells.
Leguizamo talks openly about much of his movie work, from his feelings on projects such as Super Mario Bros and To Wong Foo (and why his eyelashes will never be the same again), and in the process he instantly gets himself scrubbed off the Christmas list of people such as Steven Seagal (and there’s an hilarious anecdote about him in the book), F Murray Abraham and Patrick Swayze.
But the parts where the book is at its richest are when Leguizamo discusses his love of improvisation, and how that contrasts with the working methodologies of some of his co-stars. And also it’s equally strong when he discusses the series of one-man shows that he wrote and starred in, and how he handled the difficulty of them closely reflecting his real life.
You’d be hard pushed, still, to call Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas, and All the Rest of My Hollywood Friends: My Life a classic Hollywood memoir, but it is a very interesting one. With a voice that doesn’t feel like it’s been edited and homogenised to the nth degree, Leguizamo stories are often funny, usually interesting, but like his film roles sometimes, you just wish they could be explored a little more. Nonetheless, his searing honesty is very much a breath of fresh air, and instantly lifts the book above 90% of the clutter next to it in the usually vacuous ‘Entertainment Biography section’.
You can’t help but ultimately conclude that the man is a talent, both on the page and on the screen, and his book is easy to recommend. It’d be fascinating to see a follow-up at some point, though, not least to see how he dealt with the reaction from his peers for writing about them in the first place.