1. A childhood away from Hollywoodian glitters
Born in Havana, Cuba, Ana Celia de Armas Caso lived a childhood miles away from Hollywood glitz and glamour. Unlike many promising actors and actresses, who have stars for parents, the cinema did not run in her veins. Her father, who studied philosophy at a Soviet university, was successively a teacher, a bank manager, a school headmaster, and a deputy mayor, while her mother worked in human resources at the Ministry of Education. As a child, Ana de Armas lived for many years with her grandparents in Havana, while her parents and brother lived in the seaside town of Santa Cruz del Norte and visited her only once a week.
Due to the Cuban economic crisis in the 1990s, better known as the “Special Period in a Time of Peace”, following the collapse of the USSR and the end of commercial support from the socialist bloc, her spartan but happy childhood was marked by food rationing and electricity cuts, which could last up to 16 hours. She remembers her childhood in Havana in Men's Journal: “I grew up in nature, at the beach, and playing on the streets with friends. I felt very free. Just going wild out there and coming back home to have dinner and watch cartoons.”
As a teenager, Ana de Armas didn’t have any internet access, DVD player, or knowledge regarding international (pop) culture. She could only watch cartoons for a few minutes on Saturdays and a movie on Sunday mornings. She made up for it by going to see American feature films at her neighbor’s house, in which she discovered Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks. Mesmerized by these glamorous cinematic works full of action and romance, she learnt the dialogues by heart and re-enacted the scenes in front of her mirror. A vocation was born. At just 12 years old, the little girl with the doll-like face knew she wanted to be an actress.
2. An (inconclusive) acting career in Cuba and Madrid
At the age of 14, Ana de Armas hitchhiked to classes at the National Theatre of Cuba. She was already acting in films while being a student, before she flew to Madrid four years later with 200 euros in her pocket. Her first feature films and series ended up on the scrap heap of history, although they gave her some kind of reputation in Spain. She appeared in the sappy drama Una rosa de Francia (2006), in the teen show El Internado (2007-2010) set in a Spanish boarding school, and in the coming-of-age comedy Sex, Party and Lies (2009).
After a stint in New York to try to learn English, Ana de Armas explored new genres with the dramatic-historical series Hispania, la leyenda (2010 and 2011) and a handful of horror films, such as Anabel (2015). At that time, she doubted the future of her career, took part in plays with a theatre company in Madrid, and eventually found a Hollywood agent and moved to Los Angeles. Although the language of Shakespeare was not her cup of tea, she landed her first role in an American production in Eli Roth’s erotic horror thriller Knock Knock (2015) – she played alongside Keanu Reeves, who then became her first guardian angel in the United States. This sensual feel will reemerge later in her acting with the (bad) erotic thriller Deep Water starring Ben Affleck, her partner at the time.
3. An explosive rise in Hollywood
While Ana de Armas initially used to learn her lines phonetically and work with a diction coach for a year, she is first and foremost known as the romantic and sexy femme fatale or devoted wife in Hollywood. Despite her radiance and charisma, good roles do not come easily to her at first. However, the Cuban-Spanish actress is determined not to be trapped in stereotypical roles promoting the woman-object Latin bombshell. Thanks to Denis Villeneuve’s futuristic metaphysical thriller Blade Runner 2049 (2017), the actress shone in a supporting role for the first time as Ryan Gosling’s girlfriend Joi. Even though Joi is a mere hologram born of artificial intelligence, Ana de Armas brings a very carnal and magnetic dimension to her character.
Nothing stops the actress, who dreams of a career like that of Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep, or Penélope Cruz. She has largely proven her depth with her role of the immigrant nurse in Knifes Out (2019) with Daniel Craig and has unveiled a captivating charm in Olivier Assayas’ spy thriller Wasp Network (2019). But it is as a James Bond girl in No Time to Die that she has truly made her breakthrough. Wearing a low-cut evening gown, she plays Paloma, a secret CIA agent whose stunts have nothing to envy of her male counterparts’ ones. Her intensive training for this blockbuster will serve her well for her next athletic and badass role in Netflix’s upcoming big-budget production The Gray Man, starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans.
Now all eyes are on the actress, who got the leading role of Marilyn Monroe in the biopic Blonde. Based on Joyce Carol Oates’ best-selling book of the same name, the film is already controversial due to its shocking sex scenes. We will have to wait until September 28th, 2022, to find out if Hollywood’s newest pin-up has managed to capture the essence of the sublime and innocent icon of the 1950s, despite the lack of a clear resemblance between the two actresses.
The Gray Man (2022) by Mark Greaney and Joe Russo, available on Netflix. Blonde by Andrew Dominik, available on September 28th, 2022.