Gael García Bernal is a world-famous actor, director, and producer. The son of two actors, Bernal began acting in telenovelas in Mexico from a very young age and continued until he was 18 or 19 when he decided to study philosophy at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). After a very brief period of study at UNAM, Bernal decided to leave and move to London to study acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama, prompted by the closure of UNAM in response to student strikes.
Although he had already had an established acting career in television back in Mexico, his career in film began in earnest when he was cast as working-class dreamer Octavio in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 2000 film Amores Perros. The film received an Oscar nomination and introduced Bernal to a more global audience. Although he could have jumped on board the Hollywood bandwagon, Bernal has consistently chosen to work on Latin American films, interspersed with American films, and he’s previously stated that he is drawn towards films with a strong political message.
Following Amores Perros Bernal went on to have a prolific film career, starring in other high-profile Mexican films such as Y tu mamá también and El crimen del Padre Amaro. His other notable films include The Motorcycle Diaries (2004), in which he portrayed Argentine Revolutionary Fidel Castro for the second time (the first being in the 2002 TV miniseries Fidel), Babel (2006), also directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Science of Sleep (2006), and Blindness (2008), based on the 1995 novel by José Saramago.
In 2007 Bernal both sat as a jury member of the 57th Berlin International Film Festival and directed his first feature film, Déficit. More recently he starred in the films No (2012), about the 1988 Chilean Referendum to decide if Augusto Pinochet would continue to rule, and Rosewater (2014), Jon Stewart’s directorial debut about Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari’s arrest in Iran after he reported on the 2009 Green Movement.
He currently stars as Rodrigo De Souza on Amazon’s comedy-drama Mozart in the Jungle. His performance on the show has been widely praised, earning him a Golden Globe Award in 2016. Over the course of his career Bernal has also helped to found Ambulante, an organization and film festival that strives to make documentary films more accessible, as well as the Amnesty International Short Documentary Series Los Invisibles, about the dangers facing migrants, especially children, who make the dangerous journey from South and Central America to the U.S. In recognition of his humanitarian and civic accomplishments, Bernal was awarded the 2011 Human Rights Award from the Washington Office on Latin America.