Orestes Matacena

Orestes Matacena

Orestes Matacena (born August 29, 1941 in Havana, Cuba) is a Cuban-American actor and comedian. Matacena is well known for playing sinister mobsters, such as Niko from The Mask.

Directors Orestes has worked with

Orestes Matacena has worked as an actor with high profile directors on films, television and commercials including Charles “Chuck” Russell, Barry Sonnenfeld, Doug Liman, John Milius, Marcus Nispel, Michael Ritchie, John Fortenberry, Leon Ichaso, Kim Manners, Armand Mastroianni, Leslie Dektor, Peter Bloomfield and the great artist Bill Viola.

Early Years

Orestes first ventured into films at the age of six when he worked as an actor in "The Life of Billy the Kid," with a cast comprised only of children. The movie was shot at the Mercedes Sugar Mill in Matanzas, Cuba, where he lived with his parents.


As a film actor Orestes has played the antagonist in many Hollywood Studio films such as “The Mask” starring Jim Carrey and “Diggstown” with James Woods and Lou Gossett Jr. just to name a couple.


In the advertising world, Orestes has worked in 37 commercials so far (2007), nine of them directed by Marcus Nispel. The New York Museum of Modern Art has made Mr. Nispel’s body of work part of its Permanent Collection. Thanks to Mr. Nispel’s artistic endeavor, Orestes is part of that wonderful collection.


Orestes is well known for not taking “no” for an answer. He raised the capital to produce and direct a feature movie from a screenplay he wrote called “Tainted.” However, he decided that rather than consuming his time finding investors to bankroll his movies he would finance them himself and use that time to sharpen his creative vision.


Orestes is, as the French would say, a real film auteur. His body of work to date (2007) as a filmmaker includes “In Plain View,” “Sex Guns Money @ 20,” “Cuba Libre,” “Fatal Encounter,” “Tainted,” “James Gilbert Albright and the Haunted Studio,” “The Two Faces of Ruben Rabasa,” “Aguabella” and “Theater in the Parks.” He has written, directed, produced and edited almost all of his work.


In 1968, Orestes wrote his first play, “The Gym.” Since then, he expanded his versatility as a playwright and screenwriter with three plays and more than twenty five screenplays and various television concepts to his credit to date (2007). His writing encompasses a variety of styles: thrillers, dramas, comedies, horror and action-adventures.

“Bitter Sugar,” a movie Orestes wrote for Hollywood director Leon Ichaso about a young couple living under the Cuban Communist Tyranny, opened to excellent reviews and was shown to the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland and to the United States Congress. For Orestes this was a spiritual and rewarding experience.

Family and early life

Orestes was born in Cuba to Italian immigrants and grew up on a sugar mill plantation where the country and all kinds of animals, especially horses, were a large part of his life. He describes himself as a "third world country boy." But his business partner, Orna Rachovitsky, says he is a “Hillbilly in an Armani suit.”


As a teenager Orestes was part of the resistance fighting to overthrow the Cuban tyrant and billionaire (according to Fortune Magazine, May 5, 2006) Fidel Castro and his despotic Communist Regime, in order to establish freedom and a real Democracy on the island.

Coming to America

Orestes escaped from Cuba on an airplane to Mexico before immigrating legally to the United States and becoming an American Citizen.

After living in Mexico illegally for exactly ninety days, Orestes arrived in the United States, October 30, 1964, literally without a cent in his pocket and without speaking the English language. He settled in Titusville, Florida and worked nine hours a day, six days a week washing dishes at a restaurant called the “Ranch House” at a weekly pay of thirty dollars.

Soon after, Orestes became a short order cook and worked on Cocoa Beach before moving to Miami. In Miami he worked as a cook, a clothing salesman and a car salesman. The first month as a car salesman he lived sparsely, eating only one apple and half a slice of white toast every three days until he finally sold his first car one month later. That special day he had a feast.

Theatre in Miami, Florida

A dreamer at heart with an entrepreneurial mindset, Orestes decided it was time to start up a playhouse. His first theater was in the living room of his Miami apartment that he shared with his girlfriend Phyllis Redden, a North Carolina bombshell. Then, he rented an office space and founded “Theater 66” with Cuban actor/director, Miguel Ponce. They produced ten plays together at that theater.

Orestes in New York

Two years later, 1968, Orestes moved to New York. With only a few dollars in his pocket and knowing no one, he had no other choice but to sleep at the Port Authority bus station for a few days. By the fourth month of his arrival, he raised $25,000 and was producing and acting in his first Off-Broadway play called “The Grab Bag.”

In 1969, Orestes and Miguel founded "The New York Theater of the Americas," where they produced more than thirty original plays. Orestes acted in many of the productions, playing a variety of roles ranging from a scruffy dog to an Italian Count, and directed his first play. Miguel’s role was primarily as a director.

Not only did Orestes work in his own playhouse, but he was hired as an actor in many prestigious New York theater companies such as "Cafe La Mamma," "Stage 73," "Dume," "The Henry Street Playhouse," “INTAR” and "The Astor Place Theater."

Years later, in 1975, Orestes founded “The New York Cuban Cultural Center” along with Ruben Rabasa, Ivan Acosta and Clara Hernandez, where they produced twelve plays, recitals, poetry nights, art exhibitions and political debates about the Cuban Communist tyrannical situation oppressing the people living in that beautiful island. Thanks to Ivan, the Center is still part of the New York scene.


Twelve Commendations are hereby presented to Orestes Matacena In recognition of your heroic act of bravery and courage on March 12, 1992, with total disregard for your own life safety, you gave chase to a burglary suspect, overcoming the suspect efforts to escape, and held him for officers. Congress of the United States House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. Anthony C Beelines, Member of Congress Congress of the Unite States House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. Howard L. Berman, Member of Congress California State Senate Ed Davis, Senator, 19th Senatorial District California State Senate David Robati, Senator, 20th Senate District City Of Los Angeles Tom Bradley, Mayor

City Of Los AngelesJohn Ferraro, President of Los Angeles City Council Joel Wachs, Councilman of 2nd District Ernani Bernardi, Councilman 7th District Joy Picus, Councilwoman 3rd District Marvin Braude, Councilman 11th District Zev Yaroslavsky, Council 5th District Hall Bernson, Councilman 12th District Office of City Attorney James K. Hahn, Los Angeles City Attorney Los Angeles Police Department Willie L. Williams, Chief of Police California Legislative Assembly Cathy Wright, Member of the Assembly, 37th Assembly District California Legislative Assembly Paula L. Baland, Member of the Assembly, 38th Assembly District California Legislative Assembly Richard Katz, Member of the Assembly, 39th Assembly District California Legislative Assembly Terry B. Friedman, Member of the Assembly, 43th Assembly District Community of Los Angeles, Mid Valley Community Police Council Edmund D. Edelman, Supervisor, Third District Michael D. Antonovich, Supervisor, Fifth District

Relationships and personal life

Orestes was married to actress and commercial producer Clara Hernandez from May 3, 1975 to 1982.

Clara and Orestes have a son, Lawrence Rafael Matacena.

Orestes has been romantically linked with Orna Rachovitsky since 1999. They are also business partners.

Orna’s father and Orestes’s father were born on September 9, different years. Both fathers have passed away.

Critical success


"Some able actors are on board, including the excellent Cuban player, Orestes Matacena (misspelled in the closing credits) as a paterfamilias of the Cuban resistance organization."R. Soonsa Bandbooks.com (August 18, 2005)


"Strong cast with very good villains, including Green and Orestes Matacena." Leonard Klady Daily Variety (July 28, 1994)

"Se destacan Peter Green como el villano atractivo y Orestes Matacena como el genio del mal."Rene JordanEl Nuevo Herald (Julio 29, 1994)


"Director John Milius. . . pulls out strong performances from a talented cast." Adam Sandler Daily Variety (August 4, 1994)


Playing the conniving scoundrel with remarkable ease, Woods delivers one of his best performances, making Caine a character who walks with the calm and authority of a true professional. Gossett, Dern, and Cobb all deliver fine supporting turns, as do Oliver Platt, Orestes Matacena, and Heather Graham.Best Video Buys (2002)

"Orestes Matacena has authority to spare as Caine's mobster banker." Abbie Bernstein Drama-Logue (August 13, 1992)

"The supporting cast is also good, especially Oliver Platt as James Woods’s front man and Orestes Matacena as the heavy money from Miami (there is something so sinister about his bald pate and ponytail)."Frank Maloney, IMDb.com (1992)


". . . with Matacena having conquered over the largely Cuban group of actors to garner the film's acting laurels, as his portrayal of a drug lord being nicely tatted with ambiguity."R. Rosona, IMDb.com (April 9, 2002)

"Worth mentioning is Orestes Matacena, drum-tight as a Cuban Villain." David Hiltbrand, People Magazine (April 2, 1990)

"Ray Sharkey is decked by the script and direction, and Matacena, though he makes a valiant effort loses the battle." Tone, Daily Variety (March 28, 1990)

"Filmed in Miami the show features some tasty heavies." Ray Loynd, Los Angeles Times (March 28, 1990)


"Orestes Matacena, as the title character, is ever the noble peasant, but has such character in his face that it transcends the stereotype."David Lawrence, Box-office Online Reviews (February 2005)

"Respected Cuban actor Orestes Matacena (WILD, WILD WEST; THE MASK] stars as the title character, a simple man who leaves his village to join the rebels in Havana."Idealo.com


Best Actor 1974 - "The Architect and the Emperor of Assyria" ACE Spanish Press Association, New York Best Actor 1975 - "Los Gusanos" HOLA Hispanic Organization for Latin Actors



When Orestes directed “Sex Guns Money @ 20” he lost 12 pounds in 18 days and he lost 14 pounds in 18 days when he directed "In Plain View."


While living in Cuba during his teen years, Orestes had 12 dogs and 21 cats, all at the same time. None of them were allowed in the house.


Four days before Orestes Matacena started shooting "In Plain View" his cinematographer called him with very unfortunate news: his wife had to undergo brain surgery immediately. This was a terrible situation from all perspectives. Orestes called another DP friend of his, Claudio Chea, and told him the situation. Claudio was in the middle of the color correction of a movie he shot for director Leon Ichaso starring Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony and asked Orestes to postpone the shoot for three weeks until he could finish the color correction for the JLo movie. He said he would be more than happy to do it and that he always wanted to work with Orestes. Orestes told Claudio that he was starting in four days. Of course, everyone asked Orestes to postpone the shoot including his partner Orna Rachovitsky and his friend Ruben Rabasa. Orestes told them that there was no postponement and that he would start shooting in four days. He did. "In Plain View" was Spanish Cinematographer Mikel Saenz's first feature.


After reading the part of Niko for the second time, with “The Mask,” director Charles “Chuck” Russell, Orestes Matacena left the director's Hollywood Hill's home cursing and banging the wheel of his car while driving home thinking Chuck didn't like his reading. His manager Hillard Elkins was calling on the phone when Orestes entered his home and gave him the good news that the part was his.


In 1976 or at the beginning of 1977, Orestes Matacena went to the US immigration office in New York City because he was in the process of becoming an American Citizen. When Orestes arrived at the immigration building there were about 300 people looking inside the lobby. Orestes was in a hurry and pushed his way through the crowd and the frenzy to get into the building and walked to the elevators where a couple was waiting for one to arrive. Orestes asked them about the crowd. The man said the people were gathered because John Lennon was in the building. Orestes, still frazzled from the gathered crowd, responded "who is John Lennon?" The man, a bit surprised, told him that John Lennon was one of the Beatles. Orestes said "of course, I know who The Beatles are." The three laughed and had a conversation while waiting for the elevator. The elevator arrived and they entered and continued on about their business. When Orestes was done with his appointment, he walked out of the building and noticed that the crowd was now facing the street. He looked above the crowd standing on his toes and saw a limo standing on the street and the couple that he spoke with while waiting for the elevator was entering the limo. To his amazement he quickly realized that the couple was Yoko Ono and John Lennon. And he pulled out his camera, which he always carried with him, and took a picture to be remembered.


The reason Orestes’s father, Rafaelle, (Rafael) immigrated to Cuba was because his uncle Orestes Ferrara went to fight in the Spanish-American War to liberate the Cuban people from the Spanish Colony.


Orestes was named after his grand uncle Orestes Ferrara.


For anyone who likes to make movies, there are no bad experiences making them. I love every minute of it. I prefer to shoot, edit or write than being at a party. Making movies is what I consider a wonderful party.

If those clowns can direct so can I.

Too much of something that you like is not enough.

I have lived the life of a hundred men.



Theater Producer


“The Grab Bag” at Astor Place Theater, New York


Founder of: The New York Theater of the Americas - 30 Original Plays Founder of: Cuban Cultural Center, New York - 12 Plays


Founder of: Theater 66 Company - 10 Plays


Orestes Matacena’s interview [http://www.inplainviewthemovie.com/in_plain_view_q_a.htm] New York Times [http://movies.nytimes.com/person/101666/Orestes-Matacena] Yahoo Movies [http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/contributor/1800124930/filmography] Rotten Tomato [http://www.rottentomatoes.com/celebrity/orestes_matacena] The Village Voice [http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC38folder/ExileCubanCinema.html] Colorado Mountain Collage [http://www.coloradomtn.edu/library/ALPINE/new/films.shtml] Orestes Matacena website [http://www.orestesmatacena.com/Biography.html] Answers.com [http://www.answers.com/topic/guaguasi] Cuban Cinema [http://cine-cubano-la-pupila-insomne.nireblog.com/post/2007/04/24/orestes-matacena-actor-director-escritor] Answers.com [http://www.answers.com/topic/los-gusanos-film] The Austin Chronicles [http://www.austinchronicle.com/gyrobase/Calendar/Film?Film=oid%3A142465] Lincoln Center [http://www.lincolncenter.org/programnotes/gp-tristan-050207.pdf] Criticas Magazine [http://www.criticasmagazine.com/article/CA6493381.html] Variety [http://www.variety.com/search/siteall?q=orestes+matacena&s=relevance&x=12&y=19] Devil’s Advocate http://pimannix.tripod.com/id48.htmlHollywood Celebrities [http://www.hollywood.com/celebrity/Orestes_Matacena/1414445] MSN Movies [http://movies.msn.com/celebs/celeb.aspx?c=280627] My Space [http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=194102102] Orestes Ferrara’s Website [http://orestesferrara.com/orestes_ferrara_prologue.htm] Univision [http://foro.univision.com/univision/board/print?board.id=cuba&message.id=24421&page=1&format=all] Josiah Brown University Library [http://josiah.brown.edu/search/a?searchtype=X&searchscope=07&searcharg=orestes%20matacena] Miami University [http://scholar.library.miami.edu/archivoteatral/review/viewActors.php?actor_ID=132] University of Chicago Library [http://ipac.lib.uchicago.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?&index=BIB&term=4425663.00] Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel [http://www.prairienet.org/ejahiel/bittsuga.htm]

External links

Orestes Matacena at [http://www.yahoomovies.com] International Movie [Database http://imdb.com/name/nm0002662] Orestes Matacena [http://www.orestesmatacena.com] Sex Guns Money @ 20 [http://www.sexgunsmoneyat20.com] In Plain View [http://www.inplainviewthemovie.com] Orestes Ferrara [http://www.orestesferrara.com]

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