Now Entering The 'Del Toro Zone'
For those who like peanut butter with their cheese
Published August 31, 1999 in Dirt

Benicio Del Toro is an actor on the brink of real stardom. Ask the random Middle American on the street what he thinks of Benicio and you're just as likely to get a "Huh? Who? Get out of my face!" as an "Oh, he was sooo good in The Usual Suspects. That little accent was so funny! Has he done anything lately?"

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... by Jenn Shreve
... in the Dirt section
... from August 31, 1999

It's a difficult position for any actor to be in. After all, in Hollywood, one push too far in the wrong direction and it's curtains for the career! One day you're guest starring on General Hospital as Dr. Satan's kinder, gentler, previously dead younger brother, the next you're robbing Quickie Marts.

Benicio's marketing people are clearly wise to their client's precarious position and have latched on to that surest of sure consumer bases: hormone-soaked preteen girls.

Hence, on the front page of his Web site, Benicio Del Toro is clad in black, his lips pushed forward into a sullen pout: the perfect image of the Latin lover longing for love from you and you alone. Click on that image and you get another, more accessible portrayal of the sizzling Puerto Rican actor: as a yupped out khaki-wearing man in patterned, golf-ready shirt! Just the picture to incite the imaginations of young girls hot for father figure. Transcriptions of live, online chats are also grist for the teen idol worship mill.

A sample:

Dana Spiardi says to Benicio: If you were peanut butter, would you be smooth or crunchy?
Benicio: If I was peanut butter, I'd be a rich man.
LuCille: If you was peanut butter, you'd be on the shelf.

Azucenna says to Benicio: WAS your character in Usual Suspects gay?
Benicio: Azucenna: He was sexy.
Azucenna: Yes, I thought he was sexy, actually I think you are very sexy and I loved your accent and the way you moved!

Peanut butter? Sexy? Benicio, Benicio, Benicio, your answers are smart -- witty even -- but the questions themselves are terribly juvenile. Ditch the preteen posse; become a man.

Don't let the Dr. Gonzo drooling, vomiting, gut-belly look in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas fool you. Benicio is a babe. When thin, he's babalicious -- certainly hotter than Latin sell-out Antonio Banderas -- a fact easily confirmed by a quick perusal of Benicio's online photo gallery. His impeccable performances in a broad range of parts indicate a winning combination of brains and talent, like that of the late, great Raul Julia. And he's currently working on a biopic of Che Guevara, based on Jon Lee Anderson's Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life -- a film sure to garner serious critical attention and no shortage of Oscar nods.

This is a man poised to be the Next Big Thing, on a De Niro scale. Which means he needs to ditch the Web site altogether (real movie stars don't need official Web sites), or change its direction from teen titillation to a more generalized fan site. In which case, the title, "Benicio Del Toro Zone," has gotta go. Ditto, the khakis and mournful pout. And the next time someone asks Benicio what kind of peanut butter he'd be, let's hope he answers, "The kind you spread all over your naked little body, Fifi." Or better yet, let's hope he doesn't answer at all.

Jenn Shreve is a freelance writer in San Francisco and a media columnist for