Ana de Armas: From Cuban Roots to Hollywood Stardom

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Ana de Armas’ Early Life

Ana de Armas is taking the world by storm and there is no end in sight. The Cuban native has a rags-to-riches story that has kept her grounded, and yet her sparkle could make the sun turn away. A Bond girl, the Blonde girl, here is a look at how she came to be Hollywood’s newest phenom.

Ana de Armas  was born Ana Celia de Armas Caso on April 30, 1988 in Havana, Cuba. She was raised in Santa Cruz del Norte, a small city about 30 miles from Havana. Her father Ramón was a schoolteacher and oil refinery worker, among other things. Meanwhile, her mother, who shares her first name, stayed at home and raised Ana and her older brother, Javier.

Growing up in communist Cuba, under Fidel Castro’s authoritarian regime, was not easy. De Armas remembers living frugally. Her clothes were hand-me-downs from her brother. She grew up without transportation or social media (it hadn’t been invented yet), which meant that she and her friends usually had to entertain themselves. And, like other Cuban families, they didn’t have a ton of food around.

“I come from a modest family in Cuba, both my parents are workers, we’re no one’s children,” de Armas told the Golden Globes website. “Of course, we lived like any other Cuban family, with the food we were given and however we could.”

Her humble roots left an indelible mark on the actress’s ability to resist Hollywood materialism and awareness of how she can help other Cubans. Years later, she would tell Vanity Fair that she always left for Havana with suitcases “full of clothing or medicine or supplies—whatever people need—and come back empty.”

Ana’s Theater Roots & Transition to Film

De Armas knew she wanted to be an actress from a young age. She and her friends would act and dance as a form of entertainment. In 2002, her parents enrolled her in Cuba’s National Theatre School. But without a vehicle, attending the school meant putting extra effort into getting there.

“I would hitchhike every single morning, just stand next to the stoplight, where the cars have to stop anyway, go to the window, and tell people where I needed to go,” she told Vanity Fair.

According to the theater school’s director, Professor Corina Mestre Violably, de Armas abandoned her studies because she was offered a role in a Spanish soap opera. Violably others who knew Ana when she was younger recall her being “intranquila” (restless), but also “kind,” “intelligent,” and “pretty,” according to The Mirror. Professor Violably seemed to hold some resentment for Ana leaving halfway through her studies and asserted that later when the actress returned, she wasn’t welcome. It was as though she had sinned by leaving.

“After a while, I think the job dried up and she wanted to come back,” Violably told The Mirror. “We said ‘no, you had a choice between training to be an actress or taking a part on a soap opera, and you chose the soap opera.’”

Ana de Armas’ Early Career

It’s hard to discern how accurate that claim is. What we do know is this. Ana de Armas’ maternal grandparents had once emigrated to Cuba from Spain, giving them Spanish citizenship. This allowed Ana to obtain a passport, which she used to move to Madrid at age 18. Ana herself will admit that this was something she desired to do as soon as she was legally able to. And to be honest, who can blame her? She was living under Castro’s reign.

Ana de Armas was cast in a film called Una rosa de Francis in 2005 (released in 2006). She said the film helped her land an agent two years later, “and then [she] got lucky and a week later, a casting director called.” De Armas was cast in the soap opera El Internado (The Boarding School). She described El Internado, which ran from 2007 to 2010, as “a massive hit, like Stranger Things.”

That timeline seems to contradict Cuba’s National Theatre School’s director’s claims that de Armas was begging to be let back into her program. While de Armas was in a handful of projects between 2002 and El Internado (a TV movie, a short film, and two other films), there was no other soap opera, let alone one that “dried up.”

De Armas’ Move to Hollywood and Rise to Stardom

De Armas was cast in another TV series, Hispania, le leyenda, from 2010-2011, and a few more Spanish films before deciding to move to the United States. She told Vanity Fair that, unlike most Cuban families, hers stood out because they had no Miami-based relatives.

Ana moved to Los Angeles in 2014 and immediately got to work studying English. At that point, she couldn’t speak it. That may come as a surprise, considering the level of Hollywood stardom she’s since achieved. But as it was, de Armas spent 7 hours a day for 4 months vigorously studying English. Meanwhile, she was telling her agent to find her auditions anyways.

“People ask, ‘How did you learn English so quickly?’ I’m like, ‘Because my life depended on it,’” she told Vanity Fair.

Admitting that she came across as clueless as far as the English language goes, de Armas said she still always understood what was happening in the scenes.

“I couldn’t sustain a conversation,” she told Vanity Fair. “But the thing is, I knew exactly what was happening in the scene. It was a crazy combination of ‘She has no clue’ and ‘She’s doing it.’”

The Intensive English Lessons Paid Off

It wouldn’t take long before de Armas was noticed. Her first English-speaking film was alongside Keanu Reeves in Knock Knock, released 2015. She was then cast as Joi in the 2017 sci-fi film, Blade Runner 2049, alongside Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling.

She played Marta Cabrera in the 2019 who-dun-it film, Knives Out. For that role, one that she resisted due to Latina stereotypes she didn’t want to portray, she received over a dozen award nominations and five awards. Those included a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress and an Actors and Actresses Union Award for Best Actress in an International Production. Co-stars included Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Evans, and Daniel Craig.

Ana de Armas was soon asked to be a “Bond Girl” in No Time to Die. It would be Daniel Craig’s goodbye Bond film, and there was already undeniable chemistry between him and Ana. But it was actually director Cary Joji Fukunaga who asked Ana to be in the film because he had been a fan of hers for years. He wrote the part of Paloma with her in mind.

Portraying Marilyn Monroe in Blonde

Blonde was based on acclaimed author Joyce Carol Oates’ fictional novel of the same name. It chronicles Norma Jeane, (Marilyn Monroe’s actual name) while showing a very dark side of the legendary icon’s life. Ana de Armas said she didn’t know very much about Monroe when she was initially reading the script to audition. However, when she realized the power and potential of portraying Marilyn Monroe herself, she passionately wanted the role.

“I only had to audition for Marilyn once and Andrew said, ‘It’s you,’ but I had to audition for everyone else,” de Armas told Vanity Fair. “The producers. The money people. I always have people I needed to convince. But I knew I could do it. Playing Marilyn was groundbreaking. A Cuban playing Marilyn Monroe. I wanted it so badly.”

Obviously, someone who works to get what she wants, Ana de Armas proved that she had what it takes. According to Blonde director Andrew Dominik, the film took nearly a decade to create, primarily because they couldn’t find the right actress. But Ana convinced Andrew — and co-producer Brad Pitt — to cast her after her first audition. She even beat out Naomi Watts and Jessica Chastain in the process.

Ana’s Future Career

Ana de Armas has two movies in the works at the moment. Ballerina is in production, and it is a part of the John Wick franchise. De Armas plays an assassin seeking revenge, and stars alongside her original American English co-star, Keanu Reeves. Ghosted is in post-production and its IMDb description states, “plot under wraps.” But we do know that Armas is the first name listed, and her co-stars include Chris Evans, Tate Donovan, Adrien Brody, Amy Sedaris, and Lizze Broadway.

Beyond that, it seems that Ana de Armas will do whatever she wants to do. She obviously has charmed literally every single big director, producer, actor, fish, and eagle on the planet. But whatever she does, it will probably be good.

Read More: Adrien Brody Defends Marilyn Monroe Flick ‘Blonde’ After Backlash

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