The Stunning Transformation Of Ana De Armas

Cuban-Spanish actress Ana de Armas has starred in some of the most eagerly anticipated films in recent years, such as "Blade Runner 2049," "Knives Out," "No Time to Die," "The Gray Man," and the upcoming Marilyn Monroe biopic "Blonde." Such a meteoric rise hasn't been without challenges, from growing up during Cuba's severe economic downturn in the 1990s to effectively learning English from scratch to advance her Hollywood career.

Becoming a highly recognized and successful actress brought further challenges, ranging from invasions into de Armas' private life to having sexual scenes from her films pirated and disseminated for immoral purposes. Nevertheless, she has remained focused on her career as she has become more highly sought after in the industry. Away from acting, de Armas has partnered with a global leader in cosmetics and serves as an ambassador for an ethically aware diamond brand. With a rumored Apple TV+ original film on the horizon, the future looks promising for this young, rising Hollywood star. 

Let's explore de Armas' transformation from her early life in crisis-hit Cuba to her acting breakthroughs in Spain to her move to Los Angeles, as she risked it all to become a Hollywood household name.

Ana de Armas grew up in Cuba during a severe economic downturn

Ana Celia de Armas Caso was born in Havana, Cuba on April 30, 1988 to Ana Caso and Ramon de Armas (via Britannica). Her father worked as a teacher and her mother worked in human resources (via C Magazine). "My childhood memories are amazing, I had freedom in every way — but I see everything from a different perspective now that I live outside," she explained to Vanity Fair

During de Armas' childhood years, Cuba endured what has been described as the Special Period in a Time of Peace. During this time, the Cuban government introduced food and energy rationing for the public due to severe shortages. Recalling her childhood experience to Net-a-Porter, De Armas said that passing clothes down to younger family members was an economic necessity. However, she added that the experience has given her a healthy outlook when it comes to purchasing fashion apparel.

At 14, Ana de Armas enrolled at the National Theatre of Cuba

At 14, Ana de Armas was selected by the National Theatre of Cuba out of 500 other children after a 10-hour wait time (via Vogue Spain). While enrolled at the school, de Armas was cast in three Cuban-Spanish productions. During her second year, at the age of 16, she was hired by Spanish director Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón to appear in her professional acting debut for the romance-adventure film "Una rosa de Francia." 

She had to travel to Spain for the roles. "My grandparents were Spanish, so I had a dual passport — it was the only way I had to get out," she explained to Vanity Fair. Speaking to OnCuba magazine, de Armas credited Aragón for introducing her to the true demands of acting. "That movie taught me all the rules of a film shoot: discipline, study, late nights, respect for all team members, and above all, to realize how lucky we are to do what we love and make a living from it," she said.

She moved to Madrid at 18 to pursue an acting career

Surprisingly, Ana de Armas did not graduate from drama school; instead, she decided to move to Madrid to further advance her acting career. As she told OnCuba magazine, "I had to leave before I presented my final thesis. I was 18 years old and I felt like the time was right to move on." 

The actress has acknowledged that the Cuban film industry is relatively small and underdeveloped, making it challenging for aspiring actors, especially since acting agencies are practically nonexistent. In the same interview, de Armas explained that she took a massive risk by moving abroad. "I went with 200 euros in my pocket that I'd saved from the last film that I made in Cuba ... and I told my parents that I'd be back when my money ran out," she recalled. She later confided that this pocket money ran out in a week, but she remained in Madrid and stayed with friends of friends (via Vanity Fair).

Ana de Armas landed a breakthrough role in the Spanish teen drama El Internado

Having little to no cash to fall back on and sleeping on friends' sofas in Madrid, Ana de Armas, then 18, needed to land some acting roles quickly. Fortunately, she was cast for the Spanish teen television drama series "El Internado" (The Boarding School). "I met the casting director for El Internado two weeks after I got to Madrid," she told OnCuba Magazine. Although she trained at a prestigious acting school in her native Cuba, de Armas believes such a background doesn't necessarily provide a predetermined advantage in securing acting roles. As she explained to the Havana Times, "I don't think ENA had any impact on the decision by the directors of 'El Internado,' since they knew nothing about me or the theater school." 

This series would go on to be enormously popular in Spain and was later broadcast in other countries and by streaming giants Netflix and Amazon Prime. Ana de Armas reflected on this whirlwind period of her life to the Havana Times. "It has undoubtedly been an indispensable experience for me, personally as well as professionally," she said. "It has helped me a lot in many aspects of my life."

The actress moved to Los Angeles in 2014 to pursue a Hollywood career

Ana de Armas decided to leave "El Internado" in 2010 after six seasons and 56 episodes, despite her character, Carolina, being penned to finish the series. "The reason it didn't turn out that way had to do with a personal decision, one which I shared with the directors and the scriptwriter," she told the Havana Times. In the same interview, de Armas revealed that "she felt restless and wanted to try other things ... at that time I especially wanted to study English and stop working for a little while ... to devote some time to me." 

This desire to learn another language motivated de Armas to move to New York for a few months and study English. Between 2010 and 2014, she starred in the Spanish adventure drama series "Hispania" (The Legend), a couple of horror films by screenwriter Antonio Trashorras, and a co-produced Spanish-Veneuzulan romantic comedy "Por un puñado de besos" (For a Handful of Kisses). 

After this period, de Armas felt she was at a low point in her acting career. "Work was moving at a very slow pace," she told Net-a-Porter. Her agent later advised her to move to Los Angeles and recalibrate her career. "For me, starting over is a good thing; it's another opportunity; it's learning," she said to OnCuba Magazine.

Her first prominent Hollywood role was in War Dogs

After relocating to Los Angeles, Ana de Armas' first Hollywood films were Eli Roth's "Knock Knock" and Gee Malik Linton's "Exposed," both of which coincidentally starred Keanu Reeves. As she mentioned to The Hollywood Reporter, for "Knock Knock," she had to learn her lines phonetically because her English was limited. "I wasn't really sure what I was saying," she confessed. The actress was concerned that her language limitations would restrict her to stereotyped Latin-American roles, so she enrolled in English classes. "I want to audition for the same parts that everybody is auditioning for," she said to the outlet.

Her breakthrough role in Hollywood came in the black comedy "War Dogs," which was a huge commercial success. Again, she had to phonetically learn her lines, which proved challenging for director Todd Phillips. As de Armas conceded to Vanity Fair, "It's not a good place to be as an actor. I couldn't sustain a conversation." Nevertheless, she received plaudits for her supporting role as Miles Teller's girlfriend.

Ana de Armas was praised for her role in the sci-fi blockbuster Blade Runner 2049

In 2017, Ana de Armas starred in acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve's "Blade Runner 2049," a sequel to the much-loved cyberpunk classic "Blade Runner" from 1982. She played Ryan Gosling's holographic girlfriend "Joi," and was highly praised for her performance. Revered film critic Mark Kermode described de Armas as bringing "a three-dimensional warmth to a character who is essentially a digital projection" (via The Guardian).

With an estimated budget of $150-$185 million, "Blade Runner 2049" featured spectacular visual effects and cinematography, receiving awards in these respective categories at that year's Academy Awards. However, in a conversation with LRM Online, de Armas credited Villeneuve for also focusing on her character development. "The intimacy that really mattered in the movie didn't get lost ... All he cared about was the story and the characters," she said. The actress later told The Hollywood Reporter that this work allowed her to purchase a house in Cuba.

Her starring role in Knives Out earned her a Golden Globe nomination

After a relatively quiet 2018, Ana de Armas was due to appear in Danny Boyle's Beatles-inspired romantic comedy "Yesterday" in 2019. However, despite Boyle describing de Armas as "brilliant," her scenes were removed from the final cut because the original plotline didn't test well with preview audiences, per Cinemablend. In spite of this disappointment, de Armas' Hollywood career continued to grow with her next role as Marta in "Knives Out." In the Agatha Christie-style whodunnit, de Armas plays a nurse to an elderly wealthy novelist who is later found dead, with all visiting guests suddenly becoming suspects of foul play. 

A recurring theme in the film is the inability of the characters to remember Marta's nationality, a deliberate and searing critique of wealthy Americans' disregard for immigrant labor. Prior to filming, however, de Armas was concerned that her role may be a peripheral and stereotypical one, so she demanded to view the whole script before committing to the role. To Armas' delight, Marta played a central role in the film. As de Armas put it to Vanity Fair, "Rian gave me a whole universe." "Knives Out" was a commercial and critical success, earning de Armas a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actress in a comedy or musical.

Ana de Armas had an eye-catching role in the James Bond film, No Time to Die

On the heels of a hugely successful turn in "Knives Out," Ana de Armas' next big role was in the 25th James Bond film, "No Time to Die." This film was originally due to be released in early 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was delayed until October 2021 when cinemas could safely reopen to full capacity. This was the first action film de Armas had worked on, and her role as CIA trainee agent Paloma was "really hard," as she told C Magazine. "Everything takes so long, so your energy level, when you're waiting, goes down," she went on. "And then you're suddenly on set and you have to start killing people or kicking people." 

This entry in the long-running franchise marked a notable transition away from the demeaning objectification of women that is grossly evident in earlier Bond films. Instead, women like de Armas and co-star Lashana Lynch play leading roles that work alongside Bond with no sexual inferences. "The woman I'm portraying is different [than previous Bond girls] ... it's really fresh and exciting," de Armas said to C Magazine.

The actress played a supporting role in Netflix's The Gray Man

"The Gray Man" was Ana de Armas' next starring role in 2022. With an estimated $200 million budget, this was Netflix's most expensive original release, per Screen Rant. This was de Armas' second consecutive action film; as she acknowledged to Elle, she doesn't necessarily want to head in this same direction for future films. "It wasn't my thing ... You have to be careful, because it's not what I want to put the focus on," de Armas said. "This is not where I'm the most comfortable." 

As with "No Time to Die," her role in "The Gray Man" doesn't repeat stereotypes of leading men rescuing and then romantically involving themselves with imperiled women. Although a bond does form between de Armas and Gosling, she was happy that the relationship didn't become central to the film's plot. As she put it, "I was very happy to see that they didn't rush this relationship."

Ana de Armas dated Ben Affleck for a brief period

While filming the 2021 thriller "Deep Water," Ana de Armas began dating her costar, Ben Affleck. Although the relationship was fairly short-lived, reportedly lasting only from March 2020 to January 2021, de Armas learned a lot about the downsides of life in the public eye during that period (per BuzzFeed).

As de Armas explained in one interview, she was hounded by the press and eventually felt too uncomfortable to continue the relationship. "I have never been someone that wants any attention that's not about my work," she told Variety. "So when the attention is not about my work, it is upsetting, and it feels disrespectful, and it feels inappropriate, and it feels dangerous and unsafe. But, especially in this country, I don't know how you can find protection. I don't know how you can stop that from happening, other than leaving." After her breakup, de Armas moved to New York City.

She established herself as a fashion and beauty icon

While Ana de Armas is best-known for her work on screen, in recent years, she has also developed a reputation in the beauty industry thanks to her high-profile brand collaborations. 

In 2020, the actress was named as the global ambassador for beauty brand Estée Lauder. "Oh my gosh, it's truly an honor," she gushed to Harper's Bazaar. "It's such an iconic brand, and it's a pleasure to be working with this group of people that are continuing the legacy of Estée Lauder. It's a brand that I was using on a daily basis already, and one that aligns with my own ideas of beauty." 

That same year, she also partnered with the Natural Diamond Council in their first-ever celebrity campaign. Unlike many diamond companies, this company focuses on sourcing and selling ethically. "It makes you feel good when you buy a diamond, because you're not only celebrating a special moment, but you know that the diamond was obtained in a way that respected the workers' lives and working conditions," she told Vogue. "It felt right to be working with a company whose values I respect and believe in."

Her biggest leading role will be in Netflix's Marilyn Monroe biopic

Ana de Armas' next film, which is also a Netflix original release, will be a biopic of tragic American cultural icon Marilyn Monroe. Based on a fictionalized biography of Marilyn Monroe written by Joyce Carol Oates, "Blonde" will explore the interpretation that Monroe was exploited and victimized in her public and private life. This is Netflix's first NC-17-rated film and reviews have noted that viewers will have to be prepared to see graphic scenes of physical and sexual violence against de Armas's character (per the Los Angeles Times).

The actress has maintained that this raw depiction is important. "We're telling her story ... from her point of view," she explained to Variety. On filming uncomfortable scenes, de Armas explained that these are "difficult for everybody. But at the same time, I knew I had to go there to find the truth." 

After early screenings, de Armas has been lauded for her performance and is tipped to be a contender for the most coveted acting awards. Even so, this role proved to be emotionally draining for de Armas. "I couldn't say goodbye ... I couldn't shake it off ... I went to visit her at her cemetery a few times," she confessed.