06/25/2009 at 12:20 PM EDT
He's called the Most Interesting Man in the World, the debonair Renaissance man in those Dos Equis radio and TV ads with the outrageous one-liners: His enemies list him as their emergency contact number; he doesn't stick with just flour or corn, but switches freely between the two; he's the only man to have aced the Rorschach test.
But who is he, really? In an exclusive interview, PEOPLE got to know the man behind the beard. His name is Jonathan Goldsmith, he's an actor and businessman originally from New York City, and while the Spanish accent is fake, he really is very interesting.
Here are five things to know about him:
He lives on a 47-foot boat in Marina Del Rey, Calif.: "It's like sitting in a beautiful French shop in England. It's like a fine furniture shop or antique shop," says Goldsmith.
In his long career as a TV actor, he was often killed onscreen: "Electrocuted, shot, chopped, hung, machine-gunned and actually ground by somebody impersonating a nun," he says. "I was either killing people or being killed."
In 1991, he started a marketing company and taught people how to achieve their dreams: He retired in 1998 from his multimillion-dollar business and returned to Hollywood. "When I was up making these pitches on the stages, I would practice my projection, imagining I was back on stage. And promising myself that one day I would return to that which I love. And I did."
He was good friends with Fernando Lamas: Goldsmith cites the actor as the main influence for his Dos Equis character. Their passion for sailing bonded their friendship, and "I eventually scattered his ashes from my sailboat," he says.
He does have a favorite tortilla: Unlike his character who doesn't choose between flour and corn, Goldsmith says, "I prefer flour over corn. I get that all the time."