Andy Garcia, a Gunslinger on the Right Side of The Untouchables, Who Turns Out to Be a Hit, Man

updated 08/03/1987 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/03/1987 01:00AM

Andy Garcia really doesn't have much of a part in The Untouchables. His big moments come at the beginning, when he angrily jams a gun barrel into Sean Connery's neck, and at the end, when he coolly kills one of Al Capone's henchmen from a prone position. Of quiet demeanor, Garcia's minor character has no love scenes and little to say. Yet Garcia's rich portrayal of Treasury agent George Stone, the Italian-American T-man with a chip of ice on his shoulder, adds up to much more than the sum of his minutes onscreen. He's The Untouchables' quicksilver gunslinger, the deadly rookie who's a natural pistolero.

The Untouchables features Garcia's second major performance in a relatively minor role—this time with a difference. In Hal Ashby's 1986 movie, Eight Million Ways to Die, Garcia played Angel, a pigtailed, foulmouthed Latino coke king. He was so good at being bad that the producers of The Untouchables wanted him to play Frank Nitti, Capone's angel of death. "Brian De Palma and I were aware of Garcia through Eight Million Ways to Die," says Untouchables' producer Art Linson. "He was mean and tough and slick. We thought, 'Wow, what a great killer!' He was so strong that you couldn't even imagine him not being a heavy, which of course is the sign of a terrific actor." Garcia, however, wanted to be on the right side of the law this time around and held out for the part of George Stone. (The gritty Nitti role went to Billy Drago.)

With the overwhelming success of The Untouchables, Garcia reports, "People are suddenly asking me, 'Who are you?', which I find strange because I've been in Los Angeles for almost 10 years now. I guess everyone knows everyone else in the movie but me. Also, David Mamet's script left everyone with lots of questions about what the hell George Stone was about."

Garcia, 31, identifies somewhat with his character. "We were both immigrants at a very early age," says Garcia, whose parents, landowning farmers, fled Havana for Miami when Andy was 5. "When I came to the United States, I didn't speak any English; it was the melting-pot situation, where you come from one society to another without any preparation."

Garcia's early ambitions centered on sports, not acting. "I played a lot of basketball," says the 5'10" actor, "but by the time I finished high school, I realized there was no future in it for me. After a period of limbo, my creative interests started boiling up, taking over my body. I had to cater to them." A friend sugggested he take theater courses at a local college. A decade ago he headed for California, supporting himself as a dockworker and odd-job man. He landed a part in the first episode of Hill Street Blues and guest-starred on Brothers and Foley Square. In 1985 he appeared in The Mean Season. By that time, "I didn't have to load docks anymore."

Being on what may or may not be the brink of stardom doesn't bother Garcia or Marivi, 29, his wife of five years (they have a 3-year-old daughter, Dominik, and Marivi is three months pregnant). "We'll take it one day at a time," she says. Garcia and Marivi (her name is short for Maria Victoria) met 11 years ago in a Key Biscayne bar. She was a photography major, and he was a year away from committing himself to acting. Now, he says, "I talk about roles and ask her opinions of them. I trust her with any questions I might have."

Garcia recently finished shooting Walking on Water, an American Playhouse production scheduled for theatrical release late this year. Miami Vice's Edward James Olmos stars as a charismatic schoolteacher. Garcia, in a supporting role, plays a busybody bureaucrat from an academic testing service. Could be a rather forgettable character. About as forgettable as quiet T-man George Stone.

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