It is rare to see an actor so versatile and loved such as Héctor Elizondo. This Latino-born actor is still a fan favorite, despite being over 80 years old! However, not many people know that he didn’t originally have the intent of becoming an actor. How did Elizondo end up being cast in so many different roles? And what is his connection to Garry Marshall?

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Early life and Education

Héctor Elizondo was born on 22 December 1936, in New York City, USA, to parents Martin Echevarria Elizondo, an accountant, and Carmen Medina Reyes. The couple moved to New York City from Puerto Rico trying to find a better life for themselves and their future family.

Through them, Elizondo is of Spanish and Basque descent, in fact his surname in Basque means “at the foot of the church”. He also has a sister, Emma Elizondo.

Elizondo remained in Harlem, New York for most of his childhood. While still a kid, he showed a great talent for music and sports – when he was just 10 years old, he was a part of the Frank Murray Boy’s Choir. After completing junior high in 1950, he went to Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts in New York, as well as to another public high school where he played in school basketball and baseball teams. He was so good in baseball that he was scouted by both the Pittsburg Pirates and San Francisco Giants!

Elizondo continued his education in New York as he enrolled City College, and went to history classes, planning to become a history teacher. However, while still in his freshman year in 1956, his girlfriend became pregnant and had their son, Rodd, when Elizondo was just 19. This made Elizondo drop out of college and find a full-time job so he could support his son and wife. Despite, or perhaps because all of these hardships, the couple didn’t last, and several years later Elizondo divorced and gained full custody of Rodd. He pursued further education once more, so from 1962 to 1963 he took dance classes at the Ballet Arts Company located at Carnegie Hall, and concurrently he also took acting classes from Mario Stiletti, one of teachers at Stella Adler Theatre Studio. This is what led to him turning his career towards acting.


Elizondo had his first acting part in 1965, in “Kill the One-Eyed Man” an off-Broadway show. In 1968, he portrayed a character in the play “The Great White Hope” that was adapted into amovie in 1970. His other prominent theatre roles were in “Sly Fox” and “Volpone”. However, Elizondo’s breakthrough came with the play “Steambath”, in which he portrayed God disguised as a steam room attendant from Puerto Rico. This role earned him an Obie Award, and has led to him being type-cast as a good friend or supporter of the lead character. He played an ex-mafia member called Mr. Grey in the movie “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” in 1974, and next year starred in the CBS television sitcom, “Popi”, one of the first American series that had an almost completely Latino cast and theme. The same year he appeared in an episode of the series “Columbo”, entitled “A Case of Immunity”.

Career after Meeting Garry Marshall

The ‘80s were a new period in Elizondo’s career, as he befriended film producer and director Garry Marshall, and in 1982 they did their first movie together, “Young Doctors in Love”, in which Elizondo proved his legendary guitar skills. In the following years he was also cast in the CBS situation comedy “Foley Square”, alongside Margaret Colin, and briefly appeared in famous “Pretty Woman”, for only 10 minutes, which nonetheless won him a Golden Globe nomination. Another notable film appearance from the 1990s was his role in “Runaway Bride”, in which he played Fisher, a protagonist’s ex-girlfriend’s husband.

Héctor Elizondo

Elizondo attracted a new, young audience after portraying Joe in the famous teen movie “The Princess Diaries”, and its sequel in 2004, “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement”. He had a role in the CBS TV series “Chicago Hope” as Dr. Phillip Watters, for which he won both an ALMA and an Emmy Award, and was nominated for a Satellite Award, as well as several SAG awards. Him and his castmate Adam Arkin are the only two actors who have remained in the show for its entire run. Another character played by him and loved by many is Dr. Neven Bell from “Monk”, a role that he assumed after Stanley Kamel passed away.

During his career, Elizondo has appeared in over 80 movies, and out of them 17 were directed by Garry Marshall – most notably he briefly appeared as a fisherman in “Overboard”, a romantic comedy that starred Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. In fact, he appeared in every feature film that was directed by Marshall ever since the two met – Marshall considered Elizondo to be his lucky charm.

Elizondo is also a prominent voice actor, and his most famous portrayal was of antagonist Bane in “Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman”. He also did voice acting for “The LEGO Batman Movie” and “The Book of Life”.

Personal Life

Elizondo married for a second time in 1969m to Emmy Award-winning actress, publisher and photographer Carolee Campbell. The two met at the Actor’s Studio, and it’s suggested that Campbell helped him land some of his first television roles. The couple doesn’t have any kids; they are currently residing in Sherman Oaks, California. Elizondo’s son from first marriage and an only child, Rodd Elizondo, died in 2017.

Elizondo is a supporter of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and he even participated in one manifestation in 2013 held at the University of Southern California.

Despite being known for his Latino heritage that he is extremely proud of, Elizondo never accepted any stereotypical or demeaning role. He refused several, including the lead role in “Chico and the Man” as he considered the character to be a cliché, and a role in “Scarface”, as he thought it to be a negative stereotype of Latinos. He said about the latter: “I didn’t want to be associated with Latinos when the association is violence. (…) The violence I experienced was from the non-Latinos.’

Elizondo is a good singer and a musician; as well as playing the guitar – a skill that he showed several times during his acting career – he also plays conga drums. He still loves sport, especially the Japanese fencing skill called Kendo.

HECTOR ELIZONDO© 2013 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

Posted by The JCappers on Wednesday, November 6, 2013

He is active in a number of charities, two of them being Amnesty International and the Alzheimer Association.

Net Worth

Elizondo has a long and successful career in a plethora of movies and series. His acting and voice acting portfolio containing over 100 titles, depicts one of the most versatile in Hollywood. All of this has earned him a significant net worth that is estimated at around $10 million, as of early 2020!

Physical characteristics

Elizondo is recognizable by his warm face, grey hair and bright blue eyes. He also has a soothing voice that is easily distinguishable. He is 5ft 10ins (1.78 meters) tall, and weighs around 150lbs (68 kgs).

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