Arias, Imanol

(1956- )
   Although born in León, Arias lived in the Basque country until 1976, when he settled in Madrid. Arias studied electronic engineering, but left to work in the independent Basque theater before moving to Madrid. In his earliest film roles, his presence was oddly unremarkable, and it was hard to guess that this lean, swarthy man was a star in the making: he appeared in Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón's Demonios en el jardín (Demons in the Garden, 1982) and featured in a small role in the star-studded La colmena (Mario Camus, 1982). In 1982, he also worked with Pedro Almodóvar in Laberinto de pasiones (Labyrinth of Passions), his most substantial part in those years, and he became very popular in 1983 with Anillos de oro (Golden Rings), a television series in which he played a divorce lawyer: The part was his real breakthrough. In the mid-1980s, Imanol Arias was considered the epitome of the post-Franco period's "new man" and was featured in numerous interviews and on magazine covers. With a career untainted by the dictator-ship, he boasted strong working-class and left-wing credentials, and showed political commitment in his career choices. Although his dark looks contributed to his sex-symbol status, earnestness as an actor became his dominating characteristic. Whereas Alfredo Landa or Fernando Esteso had been representatives of masculinity under Franco, in Arias audiences had a more European version of male allure: cool, self-controlled, verging on inexpressiveness.
   Arias played an odd, confused homosexual in La muerte de Mikel (Mikel's Death, 1984), as if to prove his commitment to difficult roles. It is with his work with Vicente Aranda that he reaches maturity as an actor, particularly as the ex-terrorist in El lute and the medical doctor involved in a gritty plot in Tiempo de silencio (Times of Silence), an adaptation of one of the greatest novels written under Franco. From the late 1980s, he became a strong presence in Spanish film, earning four Goya nominations, but television gave him his greatest popularity: his work for Cuéntame (Tell Me. . . ), from 2001 onward, has earned him more recognition than anything in his previous career. On screen, he was excellent in a brief scene as the unemotive distant husband of Marisa Paredes in Almodóvar's La flor de mi secreto (Flower of My Secret, 1995), another example of his adeptness at brooding masculinity.

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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