The only thing Hollywood about John Leguizamo is his Armani shades. On a sunny day in Manhattan, he’s working an attitude that’s as homeboy as his neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen: Cruising along in his baggy plaid shorts, hightops, and a baseball jacket, he has a hello for everyone he passes. This despite verging on fame as younger Mario brother Luigi in Disney’s video-game movie Super Mario Bros. The 28-year-old Queens-bred Colombian-American was first noticed for his 1990 Off Broadway show, Mambo Mouth, in which he created and portrayed a rainbow of wacky Latin characters. His 1992 one-man play, Spic-O-Rama (now an HBO special playing this month), presents the six members of the Gigante family-from nerdy 9-year-old Miggy to high drama mother-with-a- hair-fusion Gladyz. Currently in Manhattan filming Brian De Palma’s Carlito’s Way with Al Pacino and Sean Penn, Leguizamo waxed spontaneous for a few questions: Your usual material is kind of racy for Disney. Was it a difficult transition? I couldn’t curse, and you know I’m vulgar to the max. Yeah, it was a little bit of a bummer-but I got over it fast. How was it to be a Latino playing an Italian plumber? It was my revenge for all those Italians who play Latins all the time. I’ll embarrass them just the way they’ve embarrassed me.
What do you know about plumbing? Well, we spent two days with a plumber. He told us the three laws of plumbing: Hot water on the right; fecal matter travels downhill on a 45-degree slant; and your boss is an S.O.B.
Is it true that you like big women and that you have fantasies about Roseanne Arnold? That was a kinky period-I’m into skinnier girls now. It’s true, though. There’s something about a horizontally challenged woman that’s like more woman than you can handle.
Latino groups gave you some grief about the title Spic-O-Rama. When you start guiding everything toward not offending people, you’re creating a superficial world that doesn’t exist. I was like Richard Pryor, who’s always using the word ”nigger,” trying to make it nothing. A politically correct play-what’s that?
How did you like working with Al Pacino, your idol? Meeting him was like the most exciting moment of my life. In Carlito’s Way I play this guy who, appropriately enough, idolizes Pacino. My character’s a gangster wannabe.
At 17, you went into therapy for four years. How did it help? It taught me how to be nurturing to myself because I was really destructive. You know that inner child-spank that inner child-I believe in that. But what I want to know is, do dogs have inner puppies and cats have inner kittens?