In 2016, Mexican superstar Eugenio Derbez told Variety this story about getting cast in Adam Sandler’s 2011 Jack and Jill. “When I met Adam at his office for the part, it turned out that he didn’t know who I was. But he’d asked his Mexican nanny and gardeners ‘who’s the funniest comedian in Mexico?’ and they told him it was me. And that’s how I got the role.” Derbez went back to Sandler’s house to thank the nanny and gardeners “as they did more for my career than all my agents.”
Derbez was born into a showbiz family in Mexico City. His mother was the well-known telenovela actress Silvia Derbez and his father was a publicist. He started out as a child actor and continued acting through his acting and directing studies. Despite his wish to be a serious actor, his breakthrough was in television comedies where his outrageous characters became enormously popular, so much so that he got his own comedy series on Televisa in 1993 Al Derecho y al Derbez.
By the 1990’s he was writing, directing and starring in several television shows. La Familia P. Luche in 2003 was one of the most successful Spanish sitcoms in which he played a lead. Derbez was also picked to dub the voice of Donkey (Eddie Murphy) in Shrek (2001) and Shrek 2 (2004) in the Spanish releases of the movies, as well as the voice of Mushu the dragon in Mulan (1998). Then he tried his luck in Hollywood in 2002.
In an interview with the HFPA, Derbez talked about his arrival in Los Angeles that year. “The first time I came here from Mexico, to have my whole entourage, my driver, my three assistants, production company, everyone, you know, helping me with my luggage. I get to the airport and the airline, oh, Mr. Derbez, you are here. And then I arrive here and it's just me carrying my luggage and taking a taxi, then arriving at the studio for a meeting and going with the assistant to the reception and she is not able to pronounce my name, like who are you? Eugenio Derbez. Hey, okay, well, Mr. Derbez, whatever. And then they treat me really bad like, yeah. I was like, I swear I have an audience, I swear I'm important and really bring people to the box office. Well, yeah, sure. Have you done anything in the US? Not yet. Okay, thank you very much and that was it. It was like a great lesson because I was able to understand that it's not that you're better than anyone, it's just that in one place you are someone and in another place you're no one, you're just a human being.”
He persevered for ten years in the US. There was the 2004 tour and the Broadway show Latinologues, but his appeal was limited to Spanish-speaking audiences. Derbez also found small roles in films like the aforementioned Jack and Jill and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. He returned to Mexico in 2012, and then broke through in 2013 with Instructions Not Included, which he wrote, starred in and directed. It became the most successful Spanish language film in the world earning more than $100 million at the box office ($44 million in the US alone), and his life changed.
Hollywood finally beckoned, and in 2014 he sold his house, canceled his Televisa contract, packed his bags and moved to Los Angeles. He told the HFPA everyone thought he was crazy. “Everyone was telling me, you're not a kid anymore. I was shutting down my company after 25 years. I shut it down, my life, my effort, everything. But I started working here and I'm really, really happy, especially because I'm trying to do movies that portray in a positive way Latinos on the Hollywood screen.”
Derbez went on to make 2016’s Miracles from Heaven with Jennifer Garner, How to Be a Latin Lover with Salma Hayek in 2017, and 2018’s remake of Overboard with Anna Faris. In 2019, he appeared as the villain in Dora and the Lost City of Gold as well as the voice of one of the birds in The Angry Birds Movie 2.
The showbiz tradition continues in his family with his wife, Alessandra Rosaldo, and his children Vadhir, Jose and Aislinn, all of whom are actors. In 2019, the entire family took off on vacation to Morocco and filmed the reality series De Viaje Con Los Derbez (Derbez Family Vacation) that airs on Amazon Prime International. With their nearly 70 million combined followers on social media (Derbez himself has 13.9 million on Instagram, 10.5 million on Twitter and more than 16 million on Facebook), the show was the first time the whole family came together on television.
Derbez is a racing fan and has bought and raced several Formula 1 cars. A well-known stage actor in Mexico, he is best known for the Mexico City production of the Broadway musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. He has hosted the Latin Grammys in 2010 and 2014. Variety called him the No.1 most influential Hispanic male in the entertainment industry in 2014. In 2016, he was also bestowed a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame where thousands of fans showed up to the ceremony.