• Matt Robare

Benicio del Ivy (Toro)

(EDITOR'S NOTE: There was a while there when I thought that Benicio del Toro and Brad Pitt were probably the same person. Before you judge, it's a thing on Google - JB)

Benicio del Toro can act - so well that you would never know his roots are Ivy/Trad. He inhabits his characters so completely that one can forget he’s there. Combined with a refusal to be typecast, he’s been in everything from The Usual Suspects to a remake of The Wolfman and from Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi to Sicario and so there’s no such thing as a typical del Toro film.

Born in Puerto Rico to a family of lawyers, del Toro was sent to Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania, which also produced James Stewart. One of the top prep schools in the northeast, (and there you have it, Ivy/Trad/Prep cred) the school has produced Olympians, two governors, a few judges and educated both sons of President Calvin Coolidge.

Del Toro went on to the University of California San Diego and in just his second film, played the significant supporting role of Dario, a henchman of villain Franz Sanchez in the James Bond film “License to Kill.” Timothy Dalton was Bond, and while his career never reached these heights again, LTK was a launching pad for del Toro, who went on to a breakout role in The Usual Suspects and won an Oscar in 2001 for Traffic.

He’s not one of Hollywood’s major style icons and he’s rarely seen sporting J.Press or Brooks Brothers, but del Toro is One Of Us: a trad in many things. A 2018 profile in Esquire summarizes things nicely: “Del Toro is old school . . . he listens to classic rock, on vinyl. . . . He reads books, too, paper ones, an eclectic assortment of old books and older ones. Latest discoveries: Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying . . . and HG Wells. . . . He’s recently completed seven months shooting a TV series . . . but don’t go to him for updates on your favorite show. Instead he watches old movies.”

“It’s one thing to live in the past” The Ringer says. “But Del Toro seems like a man from the past who is mistakenly living in the modern world. He’s not figuratively John Cazale with Al Pacino’s face, he truly is a guy who should have been making movies with Sidney Lumet and Michael Cimino in 1974.”

“As the most 70's like decade to happen in cinema since the actual 70’s, working in the 90’s had to feel like a consolation prize for Del Toro, a classic rocker trapped in a grunge epoch,” The Ringer added.

But del Toro isn’t just at home in the 70's. He’s loved old monster movies since he was a kid, something that led him to star as werewolf Lawrence Talbot in a 2010 remake of The Wolfman. He also starred in and produced a film about Che Guevara after his Cuban days.

Even del Toro's trapped-in-decade varies. Profilers of Del Toro can’t resist comparing him to actors from an even earlier era of cool: Marlon Brando and Ivy Style-icon Steve McQueen. Del Toro brings the same magnetism, the duende, to his roles that they did.

What else do Del Toro and Ivy/Trad/Prep have in common? “Effortless cool”. Esquire: “del Toro impressed me then, as he continues to impress audiences today, as a man who might best be described as ‘cool’, a cool dude . . . Wry, inscrutable, sleepily handsome, creatively disheveled. Louche without being creepy. Cool.” The Ringer: “He’s hitting a different kind of stride in his 50s, that of a survivor with some milage on his tires who is constantly trucking forward, secure in the knowledge that he has it – skill, swagger, spirit, soulfulness – and always will.”

Matt Robare is a regular on the Ivy Style Facebook group.