Nominee Profile 2020: Ana de Armas, “Knives Out"

by Elisa Leonelli December 30, 2019
Ana de Armas

HFPA

Ana de Armas, 31, plays the central figure in the whodunit Knives Out directed by Rian Johnson. As Marta Cabrera, the Latina nurse who last saw the family patriarch (Christopher Plummer) before he is found dead after a party for his 85th birthday, she is of great help to the detective (Daniel Craig) investigating the case. Among the suspects are the wealthy man’s son (Michael Shannon), his daughter (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her husband (Don Johnson), his daughter-in-law (Toni Collette), his grandchildren (Chris Evans, Jaeden Martell, and Katherine Langford).

Rian Johnson wrote this murder mystery inspired by Agatha Christie, after directing Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017). He wanted to address, in a humorous way, the disparity between the spoiled members of the wealthy class and the honest immigrant caretaker, who becomes the hero of the story. Her employers don’t even know which South American country she’s from, mentioning at various points Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Columbia, Brazil, and even threatening her with the status of her undocumented mother.

As for de Armas, she told HFPA journalists: “I thought I would have played a Cuban, but it was nice not to actually put a nationality to her, because then that would bring a more complicated conversation about a specific visa or passport situation, my immigration status. The idea of this wealthy family not acknowledging or caring where she's from was enough to paint the picture of what kind of people she was dealing with, which is something going on in society today. They have so much power and money that they feel they're entitled to everything and they can get away with anything, just to get the biggest slice of the pie. They are so self-centered that they don’t care about anyone else, they are unable to put themselves in other people’s shoes.” She would not have simply played a pretty Latina, she added but liked the fact that Marta represented the other side of the culture, a working-class woman with good values.

de Armas, born in Cuba to a family of Spanish descent, studied theater in Havana, at 18 she moved to Spain, where she acted in movies and television, she relocated to Los Angeles in 2014, acted in movies like Knock Knock (2015) with Keanu Reeves, Hands of Stone (2016) with Robert De Niro, War Dogs (2016) by Todd Phillips, Blade Runner 49 (2017) by Denis Villeneuve. Growing up she admired American actors like Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Richard Gere. She said to HFPA journalists in 2017: “I never dreamed that I would get the chance to work with Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling because in Cuba you grow up thinking that what you’ve got is all you need and you are normally happy with it. But I was very ambitious and curious about how far I could get and how many great artists I was going to meet in my life.”

She considers Daniel Craig a mentor - she finds his relentless way of working inspiring, having acted with him twice, playing a CIA agent in the James Bond movie No Time to Die by Cary Fukunaga, after Knives Out. Next we will also see de Armas in the British thriller The Informer, as Marilyn Monroe in Blonde, directed by Andrew Dominik from the historical 2000 novel by Joyce Carol Oates, as the wife of Ben Affleck in Dark Waters, an erotic thriller directed by Adrian Lyne from the 1957 novel by Patricia Highsmith.