Better recognized as an actor by American moviegoers for essaying funny, vaguely menacing, sometimes self-aware Latino stereotypes, Alfonso Arau crafted an even more auspicious body of work as one of Mexico's most laurel-laden film directors. Starting as a film actor in the 1950s and breaking into television in revolutionary Cuba in the early 1960s, Arau re-immersed himself in the cinema of his native land in the 1970s, collaborating with Mexican film greats Alberto Isaac and Alejandro Jodorowsky and taking up the auteur mantle himself with the comedy "El águila descalza" (1971). He drew greater acclaim for the 1974 subversive comedy "Inspector Calzonzin." The 1980s saw him don some memorable comedic supporting roles in U.S. films, notably an amiable jefe of a drug gang in "Romancing the Stone" (1984) and a hyperbolic desperado in "Three Amigos!" (1986). He established himself in the upper echelon of directors with the multiple-award-winning "Like Water for Chocolate" (1992), based on the novel by his wife Laura Esquivel. The success garnered him work in the U.S. helming the period romance "A Walk in the Clouds" (1995), the oddball ensemble comedy "Picking Up the Pieces" (2000) and the ambitious TV miniseries remake of the "The Magnificent Ambersons" (A&E, 2002). Back in his native country, Arau would helm the surreal, would-be epic "Zapata" (2004) to a storm of controversy. Building a legacy of iconoclastic and mystically-tinged movies, Arau would be credited as a prime catalyst in the re-establishment of a distinctive identity for Mexican film.