Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Conquering the Conquerors: Ricardo Darín's Rise to Stardom in Spanish Film Culture 1

Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Conquering the Conquerors: Ricardo Darín's Rise to Stardom in Spanish Film Culture 1

Article excerpt

With his jacket hanging from one hand over his shoulder, Ricardo Darín walked through one of the many photocalls at the 2012 San Sebastian International Film Festival looking relaxed, as if he were strolling alone smoking a cigarette. The constant shouting of: 'Ricardo! Ricardo!' received a quick answer back: 'Sorry, I'm in a hurry. I have to meet Dustin Hoffman! Ahhhh!' (TVE 1: daily news, September 2012). Mirroring the same fan-frantic reaction of the public shouting his name, Darín positioned himself as just another fan about to meet a movie star. This ordinary-guy aura he emanates is part of the constructed on-and-off screen character that has captivated Spanish audiences since the end of the 1990s.

Darín's appeal in Spain is due not only to the 'guy-next-door' charisma but also to a mixture of the strong influence of a large migration of Argentines to the Iberian Peninsula after its incorporation into the European Union, and later due to the 'crisis of 2001', as well as the growing connections between the local Spanish institutions and the representatives of the Argentine film industry. Bearing this in mind, this article explores the reception of Darín in both specialized film literature and general public media, taking into consideration not only the films that have been shown in Spain but also his participation in major cinematographic events, such as the Goya awards and the San Sebastian film festival. By analysing the treatment of Darín's public image, this text aims to question how the impact of socio-economic circumstances and the dynamics of the cinematographic industry on the reception of foreign actors reflects and refracts the collective Spanish imaginary at times of intense migration on both sides of the Atlantic.

A Rising Star

Darín appeared for the first time in Spanish film theatres in 1994 with Perdido por perdido/Nothing to Lose directed by Alberto Lecchi. At that time, Argentine films were slowly starting to gain more attention, thanks to the huge success of Un lugar en el mundo/ A Place in the World (1992), a film directed by Adolfo Aristarain which attracted an outstanding number of half a million spectators in commercial theatres (Colmena 2013; Elena 2011: 42).2 Inspired by those figures, and considering that Lecchi was one of the scriptwriters of Aristarain's film, Perdido was destined to be one of only two Argentine films that made it to the big screen that year. Although Darín's presence in this film was not singled out by the critics at the time, who preferred to focus on the plot and the connections between Lecchi and Aristarain, the seed of Darín's Spanish stardom was being sown in every positive review of the film's performances (such as Torreiro's in 1994). Moreover, his character, an ordinary middle-class fellow in crisis who cleverly manages to run away with the money and the girl, marked a precedent for his future lovable characters.

Four years later, a co-production with Spain, El faro del sur/ The Lighthouse (1998), brought Darín back to Spanish shores. On that occasion, the 1997 Goya Award-winning director Eduardo Mignogna and the promising young Spanish actress Ingrid Rubio caught the press's attention (Villena 1998; Rivera 1998; Torreiro 1998). Highly favoured by the presence of renowned cast and crew from both sides of the Atlantic, El faro increased the number of spectators of Perdido by almost sevenfold and in 1999 won what was Mignogna's second Goya Award for Best Foreign Film in Spanish. Overshadowed by the presence of Norma Aleandro and the popularity of Rubio, Darín's work eluded the headlines once again. Nonetheless, his sympathetic middle-aged character stayed in the Spanish audience's imaginary not only thanks to the film's success and its large presence in the media, but also because of his role as a soap opera heartthrob in Rebelde (shot in 1989), which was shown on local TV at that time (shown on Channel 5 from 1997 to 1998). This was a role that placed him among the galán actors who were rising in the 1980s and 1990s Spanish film industry, like Imanol Arias, who was also working in both countries and who contributed to the implementation of a shared star system. …

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