2 minute read

Cheech Marin: 1946—: Actor

Branched Out From Drug Humor

Uninterested in reprising the stoner role any longer, Marin split from Chong not long after the 1984 release of Cheech and Chong's The Corsican Brothers. As Marin told Entertainment Weekly journalist Bruce Fretts nearly a decade later, he and Chong "ran out of drug jokes, and it wasn't politically correct anymore. I didn't want to play those chords—it was boring. I wanted to get the characters involved in dramatic situations. Tommy was real resistant." Marin landed a deal to make his own movie, and it was a surprising success: he wrote, directed, and starred in 1987's Born in East L.A., a farce about a third-generation Hispanic American who is mistaken for an illegal immigrant and deported to Mexico, where he experiences enormous difficulties because he neither understands nor speaks Spanish.

Marin took other film roles over the next few years, including The Shrimp on the Barbie, and appeared in television commercials aimed at Hispanic buyers for Chevrolet. He served as producer for a 1991 comedy series on the Fox Television network that featured a Latino comedy team, Culture Clash, but it was cancelled after six episodes. The same fate befell a sitcom in which he was cast, The Golden Palace, a spin-off of the highly successful Golden Girls series. In a move that many termed surprising—given his previous work as the comedic, marijuana-addled voice of 1970s counterculture—Marin branched out into children's entertainment. He did voice-over work for animated feature films, including FernGully: The Last Rainforest and The Lion King, in the latter giving voice to Banzai the Hyena. He also appeared on Sesame Street and released an album of children's songs, My Name Is Cheech the Bus Driver. He also stunned many when he emerged as the grand prize winner on the celebrity edition of the television's tough trivia game show, Jeopardy! in 1992.

Marin's Hollywood success began in earnest when independent filmmaker Robert Rodriguez cast him in two films, 1995's Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn, but it was not until a role opposite Kevin Costner in the 1996 film Tin Cup that Marin finally hit his stride in Hollywood. After a few years of scarce offerings, the actor told Sport writer Randy Williams that he was grateful for his Tin Cup role as a faithful golf caddie. "I was looking to do anything that didn't have a big joint in it," he joked. Tin Cup reunited him with a friend from his more free-wheeling younger days, Don Johnson, and Johnson invited him to take one of the leads in his new cop drama for television, Nash Bridges. Johnson even tailored the part specifically for Marin: Joe Dominguez, a San Francisco private detective who was once the partner of Johnson's Nash character. The irony of his playing a former law-enforcement officer was not lost on Marin, but he stressed that his father and others in his family had been cops, so he felt at home in the role. "I ended up playing my father," he told reporter Christy Slewinski in an article that appeared in the Buffalo News. "All I have to do is open my mouth and my dad comes out."

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Al Loving Biography - Loved Painting from Early Age to Alice McGill Biography - PersonalCheech Marin: 1946—: Actor Biography - Started Entertaining With Tommy Chong, Branched Out From Drug Humor, Became Chicano Art Connoisseur