5 Movie Roles That Made Lou Diamond Phillips an Honorary Latino

Read more

This year for Hispanic Heritage Month, we wanted to do something different: to honor all people that have Hispanic heritage not just the obvious ones. One of the largest groups that gets ignored are our Filipino brothers and sisters. From history, to language, to food, Filipinos are much closer to Latinos than you might realize. Check out all the reasons Latinos and Filipinos are primos and see our Filipino content here.

So, we’ve come right out and said it: Filipinos are Latinos too. Well, if not exactly Latinos, damn close to it. And if 10 reasons weren’t enough to convince you, we are dedicating this week’s Throwback Thursday post to the hands-down most compelling argument for Latino-Filipino unity: Lou Diamond Phillips.

Yes, we wondered about the name, but just a glance at the guy was enough to reassure us that he was about as Latino as a sartén full of manteca. In fact, most of us remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when the news came down that Mr. La Bamba himself wasn’t Latino. It ranked right up there with finding out that Santa Claus was a big sham, or that Lucha Libre might not actually be real (this one’s still up in the air, right?) But despite his proclivity for Latino roles, Hollywood’s go to late-80s Chicano is actually a child of the Philippine archipelago.

Born on an American military base in the Philippines to an American father and Filipina mother, Phillips studied Drama at the University of Texas at Arlington before being cast to play Ritchie Valens in the La Bamba biopic at the tender young age of 25. $54 million dollars later (that was the box office for La Bamba), Phillips was Hollywood’s “it” Latino… and did anyone really mind that he wasn’t?

Here’s a look back at five of the roles that have earned Lou Diamonds Phillips a place in our hearts as an honorary Latino.

Ritchie Valens
La Bamba, 1987

Yup, this is the one that sealed the deal for ole Lou. No years of toiling anonymously, waiting for his big break. After only two years playing small parts, Phillips was cast as the teenage pop sensation and closet Chicano, Ritchie Valens (a.k.a. Richard Valenzuela), in a tragic story of an artist’s untimely demise that nevertheless made Lou Diamond Phillips a household name.

Angel Guzmán
Stand and Deliver, 1988

Before Dangerous Minds brought Coolio into middle-class living rooms across the country, there was Stand and Deliver, “The Rocky of the classroom”, which according to the official trailer was even “more exciting than La Bamba.” Indeed, only a year after La Bamba’s box office coup, Phillips was playing a wayward cholo saved by Edward James Olmos in his Oscar-nominated role as an inspiring urban teacher. While we’re not sure what a biopic set in the 1950s and a contemporary classroom drama have to do with one another, I suppose the fact that both had Mexicans — or Filipinos playing Mexicans — was enough to merit the comparison.

José Chavez y Chavez
Young Guns, 1988

Lou may not have been front and center in this period drama, but the mere fact that he was sharing screen time with the likes of Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen and Kiefer Sutherland a mere year after his big screen breakout says a lot about his accelerated career trajectory. As José Chavez y Chavez, Phillips played one of the secondary members of Billy The Kid’s famous outlaw posse known as “The Regulators.” Sources assure us that Warren G was not at all involved in the making of this film.

José Tenorio
Filly Brown, 2012

Flash-forward 24 years later. Yes, Phillips’ star has faded a bit, or at least he hasn’t been able to recreate the staggering success of those early years, but the guy’s still truckin’. Playing the overprotective father to Gina Rodriguez in her turn as a barrio-bred hip hop up-and-comer, Filly Brown, Phillips is looking more Latino than ever with that bigotón. He even had the chance to reunite with Edward James Olmos, who executive produced this indie crowd-pleaser and played the family lawyer, Leandro.

Luis “Don Lucho” Urzua
The 33

No trailer for this one yet, but we do have confirmation that Lou Diamond Phillips will be back in the saddle as a principal actor alongside none other than Antonio Banderas in this disaster drama, with undisclosed roles by the likes of Kate del Castillo and Oscar Nuñez. The 33 will give Hollywood’s take on the ordeal of the 33 Chilean miners that captivated the world when they survived 69 days trapped in a mineshaft back in 2010. While details on the film’s release are sketchy, the film seems to be packing enough star power to get screen time at a theater near you sooner or later. For the sake of continued Latino-Filipino unity, let’s hope it’s sooner.