Rosie Perez has been delivering iconic performances on-screen for decades now. The electrifying Brooklyn-born Puerto Rican American actress, with her passion and dedication to her craft, was destined to shine. After being spotted by a talent scout at a Los Angeles nightclub, Perez got her break dancing on Soul Train. In the late '80s, Perez caught the attention of filmmaker Spike Lee, who cast her as Tina in his seminal drama, Do the Right Thing. The role was the first major acting gig of her career. Since then, the multifaceted star has continued to share her talents in films, on television, and on Broadway. She was even a choreographer for the Fly Girls on In Living Color.
Along the way, Perez has also become a champion for Latinx representation in cinema. Also a producer, director and author, the gifted actress has been praised for her powerful work over years. For her performance in 1993's Fearless, she received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Perez has also long been an activist for Puerto Rican rights, using her voice to raise awareness about the issues concerning the island and its people.
To celebrate her contributions to cinema, A.frame takes a look at the essential roles of her career.
In her acting debut, Perez played Tina, Mookie's (Spike Lee) love interest and the mother of his son. The drama, widely considered one of the best films of the '80s, explores a Brooklyn neighborhood's racial tension on a scorching hot summer day. Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito), a resident of the neighborhood, gets upset when he notices that Italian pizza shop owner Sal (Danny Aiello) doesn't have any photos of Black actors displayed in the pizzeria's Wall of Fame. The wall becomes a symbol of racism, which leads to hate and violence.
Do the Right Thing, co-starring John Turturro, Samuel L. Jackson, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and Bill Nunn, was nominated for Best Original Screenplay for Lee and Best Supporting Actor for Aiello.
In this Jim Jarmusch anthology film that follows five cab drivers from around the world on the same night, Perez, a part of the New York vignette, plays Angela. She is picked up and interacts with a cab driver who is an immigrant from East Germany. The ensemble cast includes Winona Ryder, Gena Rowlands, Giancarlo Esposito and Roberto Benigni.
Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson star in this classic basketball comedy-drama that follows Billy Hoyle (Harrelson), a basketball hustler in Los Angeles who teams up with Sidney Deane (Snipes) to con their unsuspecting opponents on the basketball court. Perez plays Gloria Clemente, Billy’s Jeopardy!-obsessed girlfriend.
Perez co-stars alongside Marisa Tomei and Christian Slater in this romantic drama. When unlucky in love waitress Caroline (Tomei) gets attacked by two men, the shy bus boy, Adam (Slater), saves her. The incident brings the two closer together. Adam, however, is battling an illness that Caroline is unaware of. Perez plays Cindy, Caroline's friend and co-worker.
Peter Weir's Fearless stars Jeff Bridges as Max Klein, a man who drastically changes his life after surviving a plane crash. The drama was inspired by United Airlines Flight 232, which crashed in Iowa in 1989. Following his near-death experience, Max becomes fearless and tries things that he would have never attempted before the crash. Perez co-stars as Carla Rodrigo, another survivor, who is living with survivor's guilt after losing her child in the crash. Carla and Max develop a close bond as they spend more time together.
Perez's performance earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
In this romantic comedy inspired by a true story, Perez plays Muriel Lang, the wife of policeman Charlie Lang (Nicolas Cage). When Charlie doesn’t have any cash with which to tip his waitress, Yvonne Biasi (Bridget Fonda), he offers to give her half of the winnings from his lottery ticket should he win. He actually does end up winning the lottery! He wins $4 million, and then decides to keep his word and give Yvonne $2 million. This makes Muriel understandably furious. Charlie and Yvonne end up becoming closer while Muriel schemes to take all of the money.
This gritty drama follows two brothers, Mick (Michael Raynor) and Lex (Nick Chinlund), years after they were abused as children by a cop. Lex is a drug dealer whose relationship with his girlfriend, Debbie (Perez), is on the rocks, while Mick is a cop. All these years later, the brothers continue to be haunted by the assault. John Leguizamo, Marisa Tomei, Cathy Moriarty, and Michael Rapaport co-star.
Perez and Javier Bardem star as Perdita Durango and Romeo, respectively, a psychotic couple who kidnaps a teenage couple and commits treacherous crimes on their way to Las Vegas. Based on Barry Gifford's 1992 novel 59 Degrees and Raining, the crime thriller was directed by Álex de la Iglesia and co-stars James Gandolfini, Demián Bichir, Harley Cross and Aimee Graham.
John Leguizamo and Perez are husband and wife in this crime drama directed by Brad Furman. Felix (Leguizamo) is an armored truck driver who gets shot during a heist in Los Angeles. As he begins the painful recovery process, he discovers that he has been framed. He then sets out to find the man behind the crime. Tyrese Gibson, Bobby Cannavale, Yul Vazquez and Matthew Hatchette co-star.
Perez joins the DC Universe in this comic book movie portraying the crimes and adventures of the antiheroine Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Directed by Cathy Yan, Birds of Prey follows Harley after her break-up with the Joker, as she teams up with a group of deadly women to save herself and a young pickpocket (Ella Jay Basco) from crime lord Roman Sionis AKA Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). Perez plays Gotham City Police Department Detective Renee Montoya, who is after Black Mask. Birds of Prey co-stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett, Ali Wong, and Chris Messina.