Luis Tosar: The Greatest Actor You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Luis Tosar

Being American, it can be pretty easy to forget all the great actors from non-English speaking countries. It’s an honest mistake, but a grave one nonetheless. When asked about foreign actors, names like Javier Bardem and Christoph Waltz spring to mind. While both are fantastic actors, there are other foreign actor who haven’t yet reached American or English fame, and some want nothing to do with the American market. One actor who isn’t a household name in America is Luis Tosar and he might just be one of the greatest actors that you’ve never heard of.

Fans of American cinema may not recognize the name, but they should. His only major role in an American film was 2006’s Miami Vice, starring Colin Farrell and Jaime Foxx. Basing his career off that movie would be unfair as Tosar has been able to build an amazing and vast career in the Spanish-speaking market.

Luis Tosar first became a recognizable name from his TV series Mareas vivas, a television series that ran from 1998 to 2002. The series became a success in the Spanish market and served as a springboard to many of the actors, the biggest being Tosar.

Take My Eyes (Te doy mis ojos), a 2003 Spanish-language film gives viewers a shocking look at a married couple on the rocks. Tosar is an abusive husband who is trying to change as he wants his wife and kid back. While this kind of character is common in film and television, Tosar provided humanity to a brute of a man. It’s impossible to love the character, but it’s extremely easy to fall in love with Tosar’s performance. Like any person, Tosar’s character goes through moments of docility and intense moments of rage. Despite being a decade old, the film is one of the most accurate portrayals of an abusive relationship in film history.

After Take My Eyes, Tosar spent time doing a number of roles, with many being well received by critics. In 2006, he appeared in Miami Vice and also Take My Eyes premiered in American theaters. His next huge stroke of success didn’t come until a few years later, though.

The Goya Award statuette
The Goya Award statuette

Tosar’s most acclaim has to be from his 2009 hit, Cell 211 (Celda 211). This film stars Tosar as Malamardre, a prisoner that instigates a riot and befriends an undercover prison guard in the process. Tosar won the Goya Award for Best Actor, which is the Spanish equivalent to winning the Academy Award for Best Actor in America. It was his second Goya for Best Actor and he also won one for Best Supporting in 2002, all well-deserved.

For Cell 211, Tosar looked the part of a brutal, yet smart criminal, with a shaved head and thick goatee to match his signature eyebrows. In comparison to his character in Take My Eyes, both have a sadistic nature to them, but both are different. Not only do the characters look different, with Tosar clean-shaved and balding for Take My Eyes, but their demeanor is different. His character in Take My Eyes beats his wife while in Cell 211, his character is a leader, forcing his whole posture to change accordingly.

Tosar’s second most notable role, behind Cell 211, would have to be Even the Rain (También la Lluvia). Even the Rain is an interesting film about a film crew that find themselves in the middle of the 2000 Cochabamba crisis. Tosar plays an executive producer who picks the filming location due to how cheap it is. The low-price is soon over-weighed by the coming crisis that reaches its boiling point at the film’s climax. Tosar’s character goes through the biggest change in the film and he proves that he can play a jerk and good guy equally well. While he did not win a Goya for this picture, this is easily Tosar’s most likable character as he isn’t perfect, but he’s more human than most characters in film. While Even the Rain isn’t his best reviewed movie, it seems to be his most recognizable which might be because it’s one of his most recent films, or that it is available on streaming services like Netflix. Whichever reason, the fact still stands that the film tells an interesting story and features one of Tosar’s most powerful performances.

Like previously mentioned, Tosar has only appeared in one big-time American film, but he has appeared in other English films, two being Limits of Control and Mr. Nice. Both roles feature him speaking a minimal amount of English and both are bit parts. He doesn’t steal the scenes in either film, but those films prove that he can bring a believable performance to any role he does. Watching any of these films, while not a bad idea, can’t provide the true scope of Tosar’s range as they are more like seasoning as they enhance his career to date.

Luis Tosar

Tosar’s biggest career feat has to be his wide range of roles. Many actors tend to stick to one genre as it is their strongest, but Tosar doesn’t have just one genre. As he progresses, his skills grow and his roles evolve. Another accomplishment of his is how he finds a way to add humanity and a form of likability to unlikable characters. Both Take My Eyes and 2011’s Sleep Tight force you to hate Tosar’s character, but his acting makes it difficult as he is never one dimensional. One dimensional characters are common in movies of any language, which is what makes Tosar so great. When he’s the villain, he never seems to play the “mustache-twirling” kind.

Now there are surely countless Tosar fans in the world, and they are hopefully nodding their head in agreement with everything written here. Luis Tosar may not be the the most attractive as he looks like your average guy, but he performs with an extraordinary amount of skill. A skill that makes his acting more believable than most actors popular today. Not to say that there aren’t amazing American and English actors, just that there are great actors from other countries and he is one of them.

Despite being relatively unknown in most regions of America, Tosar’s great performances are why he not only is the best actor you’ve never heard of, but one of the best actors of this generation. If you haven’t had the fortune of seeing a film starring Luis Tosar, his work comes highly recommended. There is a good chance if you see one of his movies, you will want to see more.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. YES!! Mental actor that deserves more recognition!

  2. M. Kaestner

    Sleep Tight is a very underrated piece of work. Our emotional sympathy for the protagonist is most definitely partly down to Luis Tosar’s magnetic performance. He strikes up feelings of fear and disgust, yet also evokes sympathy. Thank you for celebrating his work.

    • Thank you for reading. I find it amazing how even negative reviews of that Sleep Tight still applaud his performance. That’s one of the few signs of a truly great actor, when even people who hated the film recognize the effort of the actor.

  3. Milly Pederson

    First of all, great job with this retrospective. Luis Tosar is a heck of an actor.

    Secondly, I heard that he has not been very welcomed in Hollywood, do anyone have any concrete information about this?

    • Thank you. To be honest, it is very difficult to find concrete information about that, most of what I found was speculation. I did read while doing research for this that he doesn’t speak English very well, which is why his English-language roles are so limited. That may hold him back as far as getting Hollywood jobs, but I’m not 100% sure that is his only reason.

  4. Robert Humphrey

    I thought ‘Even the Rain’ was such a fantastic movie, and Tosar’s performance in it was amazing. He’s definitely a great actor. I’ll have to check out the other movies you’ve listed. They all sound extremely fascinating and interesting.

  5. Sara Roncero-Menendez

    As a Spaniard, this article makes me smile! Great article on a great artist!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. 🙂 I had a great time writing it, though it did take many hours of research, which was partly just watching and rewatching many of his films, which isn’t really work at all.

  6. Great article- I confess I haven’t seen any of Tosar’s work, but you put forward a compelling case that I should. He seems to be a remarkable actor with great talent, intrigued!

  7. Awesome article! I’ll admit I had never heard of Luis Tosar but I’m not definitely intrigued to check out some of his catalog.

  8. Great article! International character actors can lend terrific performances and realism to every movie. Despite Hollywood’s treatment of multi-cultural actors, they immerse themselves into any role to help propel the narrative forward. New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis (Training Day) has played multiple races and ethnicities with ease.

  9. Amelia Roberts

    Great article. I’d heard of Tosar before but never looked into any of his work – you’ve persuaded me to do so!

  10. a j piro

    Just saw También la Lluvia broadcasted on the belgian television. Luis Tosar is awesome in it. I also watched him on dvd in los Lunes al Sol: also a great, intense performance. Hope he will continue to play in movies like these and won’t get hijacked by the USA blockbuster film industry. He’s just much too good for that !!!

  11. just watched Cell 211 i loved Tosar and Alberto Ammann in it. There are many great actors that aren’t american especially if you dare to venture out of mainstream movies. I love foreign language movies

  12. Ahmad Mostafa

    I can’t find subtitles for most of his recent movies, can anyone help me please?

  13. Sounds like an underrated, yet impressive actor.

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