Entertainment
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
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Entertainment
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News.
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
social
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Raul Julia

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Famous For:
The Addams Family, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Streetfighter
Networth:
$5 Million
Currently Known For:
Deceased
Famous Years:
1970s - 1990s
Birthdate:
March 9, 1940
Raul Julia


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  famous for:
The Addams Family, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Streetfighter

  networth:
$5 Million

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“I knew there was something special about the theater for me, something beyond the regular reality, something that I could get into and transcend and become something other than myself.” One of the most talented actors to hail from Puerto Rico, Raul Julia launched his acting career in the late 1960s and quickly earned his place on the Broadway stage in New York City. While appearing in numerous productions, he became a household name thanks to his work on Love of Life and Sesame Street before his performance in Two Gentlemen of Verona earned him a Tony Award nomination.

The sky was the limit for Julia who set his sights on international acclaim and found exactly that in productions of The Threepenny Opera and Nine as well as in films like Tempest, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Addams Family, and Burning Season. Sadly, Julia’s career high came to a tragic end in 1994 when years of health issues led to a severe stroke that took his life at the age of 54. Months after his death, he was posthumously awarded a Golden Globe Award, an Emmy Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for his final film, The Burning Season (1994).

1940s to Fame

The oldest of four children born to a church singer and an electrical engineer, Raúl Rafael Juliá y Arcelay made his debut into the world on March 9, 1940, in Floral Park, San Juan, Puerto Rico. With many musicians in his family, Julia was introduced to music and performing at a young age. This is what led him to audition for his first school play at the age of five.

“I remember I was like five or six years old; I played the devil. That was my first role,” he said. “I came on stage and I sort of let go and started having a fit. You know, ‘Ooooh’ and rolling all over the stage. My parents thought, ‘Oh my God, what’s wrong with him? He’s possessed or something.’ All of a sudden, I stood up and started saying my lines. From then on, that was it. I knew there was something special about the theater for me… something beyond the regular reality, something that I could get into and transcend and become something other than myself.”

Julia’s passion was undeniable, even for his father who dreamed his son would one day take over the family restaurant. Julia, however, wasn’t yet ready to disappoint him and attended Fordham University for a year before he transferred to the University of Puerto Rico. He spent his free time acting in local plays and performing in nightclubs. After he earned his degree, he knew he had no interest in pursuing a career in law or running the restaurant. Fortunately, his parents saw his passion and supported him the best they could.

Throughout the early 1960s, Julia performed with the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater and, by 1964, settled down in New York. Although his parents supported him financially, he landed a role in Bye Bye Birdie at the Dallas State Fair and thought he was set making $500 a week. He told his parents, “I don’t need you anymore,” and his father stopped sending money. Sadly, that $500 paycheck didn’t last long when Julia returned to New York where he often borrowed money from his roommates. “Sometimes we used to eat once a day… chicken backs,” he recalled. “You could buy four chicken backs for a quarter.”

Julia taught Spanish and sold magazine subscriptions to earn money, but he never gave up on his dream. He auditioned several times for the part of Chan in The Cuban Thing and, after the fourth audition, landed the role in his first Broadway play. He was then cast in a production of Indians and slowly built his reputation on the stage before venturing to television in Love of Life and Sesame Street, the latter of which inspired characters like Rafael the Fix-It Man. “There wasn’t one big break,” Julia said. “It was like a progression of things. I did one thing. People saw me. Then I’d do another thing. I got more recognized.”

One of the biggest turning points in his career came when he was offered the role of Proteus in Two Gentleman of Verona. “I am very grateful for my association with Joe Papp, and of course my friendship,” Julia said of Papp who gave him the role. “We became like father and son. He saw what I could offer. He didn’t look at my ethnic background or my whatever.” Papp pushed Julia to greatness as the young actor earned a Tony Award nomination and a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance for Two Gentleman of Verona in 1972.

Theater and Beyond: Building His Legacy

Julia also ventured into film with credits in The Organization (1971), One From the Heart (1982), The Escape Artist (1982), and The Morning After (1986) among numerous others. However, he never actively pursued film and preferred theater with critically praised performances in Where’s Charley?, The Threepenny Opera, The Gumball Rally, Dracula, and The Taming of the Shrew. “I didn’t resist the movies, but I wasn’t eager to get into them either,” he said. “I was in New York. I was happy doing theater. I was even offered some things that I didn’t really feel were right for me for a lot of money, more money than I was making in the theater…”

Julia’s commitment to theater never faltered throughout the 1980s and 1990s although he sporadically returned to film and earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for his work in Kiss of the Spider Woman (1986). He also starred in Presumed Innocent (1990), Havana (1990), and The Addams Family (1991), the latter of which became one of his most iconic roles. In 1993, he reprised his role as Gomez Addams in Addams Family Values and started work on his final project, the 1994 television film The Burning Season.

After years of health issues and rumored stomach cancer, Julia had another setback on the set of The Burning Season in Mexico when he contracted food poisoning. Although he finished filming, he never fully recovered and, in late 1994, was hospitalized for intense abdominal pain. Four days later, he fell into a coma and was put on life support after suffering a stroke. He died on October 24, 1994, at only 54 years old.

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