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Mario Van Peebles Biography

Destined For Show "business", From Acting To Directing, Continued In His Father's FootstepsSelected works


Actor, director

Van Peebles, Mario, photograph. AP/Wide World Photos Reproduced by permission.

Mario Van Peebles has established himself as one of a prolific new generation of black filmmakers. After the handsome actor appeared in films and on television for more than five years, he was asked to direct a small-budget movie about drug abuse in the New York City ghetto. The resulting work, New Jack City, was both a commercial and a critical success, earning huge profits for its studio and making a permanent name for Van Peebles. Over the next decade, Van Peebles solidified his position in the film industry by delivering a vast array of entertaining, challenging films, the most notable being 2003's How to Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass, about his father.

Few young artists bring more impeccable credentials to moviemaking. Van Peebles is the son of veteran actor-director-writer Melvin Van Peebles, whom critics once dubbed the "godfather of modern black cinema." This is not, however, a case where a son has ridden to fame on his father's coattails. Mario was strongly encouraged to forge his own career, and he did so by working hard, looking for opportunities, and perfecting his craft through study and practice. Although the younger Van Peebles does not make light of his famous name, he admitted in Ebony that "it can get your foot in the door. But if you don't have the talent to keep the door open you're going to get your foot slammed off."

"I got special attention being the first-born and the ugliest," Van Peebles said of his unconventional childhood, as quoted by Ebony. The oldest of three children, Mario was born in Mexico City and grew up following his artistic parents from America to Europe and back again, as their jobs demanded. His white mother worked as a photographer while his father made movies and television specials. As a youth, Mario spent time in Paris, Morocco, Denmark, and San Francisco. Remembering those days in a People interview, Van Peebles said: "We were always broke. My room was usually a hotel closet. Mom was my schoolteacher." On the other hand, he noted, the gypsy life had its advantages. "I can speak four languages fluently," he continued in People. "French, Spanish, Uptown and Downtown."


Waltz of the Stork, 1981.

Champeen!, 1983.

Take Me Along, 1984.

Cotton Club, 1984.


Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, 1971.

The Cotton Club, 1984.

Delivery Boys, 1984.

Exterminator II, 1984.

South Bronx Heroes (also known as The Runaways and Revenge of the Innocents ), 1985.

Rappin', 1985.

3:15, the Moment of Truth, 1986.

Heartbreak Ridge, 1986.

The Last Resort, 1986.

Jaws: The Revenge, 1987.

Hot Shot, 1987.

New Jack City, 1991.

Posse, 1993.

Panther, 1995.

Gang in Blue, 1996.

Solo, 1996.

Love Kills, 1998.

Judgment Day, 1999.

Ali, 2001.

How to Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass, 2003.


The Sophisticated Gents, NBC, 1981.

L.A. Law, NBC, 1986.

Sonny Spoon, 1987-88.

One Life to Live, ABC.


(With Marc Shmuger) South Bronx Heroes, 1985.

Identity Crisis, 1989.

Los Locos, 1997.

Love Kills, 1998.

Standing Knockdown, 1999.

How to Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass, 2003.



Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 6, Gale, 1989.


Ebony, May 1987; November 1987; June 1988.

Economist, March 30, 1991.

Entertainment Weekly, June 4, 2004, pp. 42-44.

Essence, June 1993.

Interview, June 2004.

Jet, July 27, 1987; April 18, 1988; March 11, 1991; August 7, 1995; August 26, 1996; September 23, 1996.

New York Times, March 5, 1990; March 8, 1991; March 31, 1991.

People, June 20, 1983; March 2, 1987.

Premiere, June 2004, pp. 98-100, 124.


"Get the Man's Foot Out," Hollywood Reporter, www.thehollywoodreporter.com/thr/reviews/review_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1978600 (April 29, 2005).

—Anne Janette Johnson and Sara Pendergast

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Jan Peck Biography - Personal to David Randall (1972–) Biography - Personal