Raúl Juliá (Photo by
Time & Life Pictures/
Raúl Juliá's celebrated acting career made him one of Puerto Rico's most famous native sons. Born on this date in 1940, Juliá was a success on stage with multiple Tony Award nominations, and on TV and movie screens, making his mark with well-loved and award-winning roles. We're celebrating his life today with a look at some of the highlights of his career.
One of the roles that first got Juliá noticed on a large scale was Rafael the Fixit Man on Sesame Street. Rafael was a recurring character in the show's third season in 1971 and '72.
Onstage, Juliá often took on Shakespeare, as when he played Petruchio opposite Meryl Streep's Kate in The Taming of the Shrew.
In 1985, Juliá starred in Kiss of the Spider Woman, winning the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures award for best actor.
Juliá played Mack the Knife both in The Threepenny Opera on Broadway and in the film adaptation, Mack the Knife.
A new generation fell in love with Juliá when he took on the role of Gomez in the big-screen adaptation of The Addams Family.
In 1994, Juliá was filming The Burning Season when he became severely ill with food poisoning just a few months after having had stomach surgery (reportedly for an infection, though many suspected cancer). Despite his poor health, he finished the film and went on to complete two more that year. That fall, shortly after being hospitalized with intense abdominal pain, Juliá suffered a stroke and lapsed into a coma. He died October 20, 1994 at the age of 54.
For his portrayal of Brazilian environmental activist Chico Mendes in The Burning Season, Juliá posthumously won the Golden Globe, Emmy and SAG awards. In the nearly two decades since his death, Raúl Juliá continues to be remembered and honored for his humanitarian work with The Hunger Project and numerous other organizations, as well as his fine acting.