With ¡Three Amigos!, John Landis (The Blues Brothers, Animal House) brought his goofball sensibilities into meta-territory, dropping three out of work, clueless actors into the Wild West anarchy of a small Mexican village trying to stand up to the extortions of a violent gang. It doesn’t hurt that those actors are played by comedy legends Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short, either.
Though the cultural representations are very dated, the film’s jokes and hilarious performances keep it feeling fresh.
Where they are now? Find out here.
Steve Martin has been a major comedy presence since the late ’60s, as an actor and behind the scenes. In Amigos, for example, he played triple duty, starring in, co-writing and executive producing the film.
Coming off of his first huge hit, 1979’s The Jerk, Martin had made several well-loved cult films (Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Man with Two Brains), but Amigos was a return to form.
Only a week later, Little Shop of Horrors hit theaters, and throughout the rest of the ’80s and ’90s, Martin released one or two movies a year. Often forgettable (1992’s Leap of Faith, anyone?), sporadically profitable (Father of the Bride), and occasionally, brilliantly weird (Bowfinger, which he also wrote).
Patrice Martinez plays Carmen in the film, the daughter of the small village’s leader, and the love interest of the villainous El Guapo.
The Albuquerque-born actress got her first break as a teenager when she caught Sam Peckinpah’s attention, and he upgraded her extra role in Convoy (1978) to a speaking part.
After Amigos, Martinez took small parts in projects as diverse as Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice and Magnum, P.I., before eventually finding her career’s work portraying Victoria Escalante in nearly 100 episodes of Zorro’s sporadic television run from 1990 to 2011.
The aptly named Short played the wonderfully named Ned Nederlander, the third titular amigo in the film. An SCTV alum, the 65-year-old Canadian actor has always been a hilarious presence on screen, even while maintaining a quiet life off-screen.
Since starring in ¡Three Amigos!, Short has worked steadily in both television and film. On the small screen, he notably ran his well-received, one-season skit series, The Martin Short Show, donned a fat suit for Primetime Glick, and was on Arrested Development as Uncle Jack, a bizarro-world take on Jack LaLanne. Recently, he’s had roles in the Netflix-original Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and the new Hulu series Difficult People.
In film, he recently did voice work for the the English language version of Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises and had a wonderful, disturbing role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice.
Born in Mexico City in the early 1930s, Alfonso Arau has had about as diverse a career as you could imagine.
He spent time learning alongside Lee Strasberg in Germany and spent four years traveling the world in a one-man show during the mid-’60s.
Working both as a director and actor, and both in English and Spanish, Arau has been in projects as diverse as the show Miami Vice, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo and the action-comedy Romancing the Stone.
Given that Arau is now in his ’80s, it’s understandable that his output has slowed since playing El Guapo in Amigos. His last acting credit, 2012’s I Heart Shakey, is apparently about a dog and features the tagline “A Family Comedy For All Breeds.” In better news, he recently announced The Crime of Love, a project he is writing and directing about intrigue, love affairs and the lead up to the second World War.
Chevy Chase is best known for his impish grin, deadpan delivery and, um, difficult working relationships.
As Dusty Bottoms in Three Amigos, Chase was following up earlier ’80s successes such as Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Family Vacation and Fletch. The first-season SNL star went on to make a number of critical and commercial flops through the ’90s and early aughts.
More recently, he was a main character on NBC’s Community and had a role in the (surprisingly good) 2010 film Hot Tub Time Machine.
Tony Plana, who plays El Guapo’s right hand man—named Jefe, which actually translates to “boss”—already had over a decade of acting experience by the time the film hit theaters. In addition to a part in the unforgettable immigration tale El Norte, he also honed his chops on television shows such as Hill Street Blues and Remington Steele.
Since then, he’s kept up a busy schedule, with more than 150 IMDB acting credits (and, curiously, a directing credit for a lone episode of Desperate Housewives).
He had a role in the Richard Gere thriller Primal Fear and more recently in the Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson action flick Pain & Gain.
John Lovitz, a regular player on SNL at the time, was awarded the small role as a studio flunky by the film’s director, John Landis.
Lovitz is best-known for his SNL work (he is the subject of his own “best of” DVD edition), as well as his animated show, The Critic. He’s had roles in a number of hilarious, cult classic films such as The Wedding Singer and Little Nicky, but he has also brilliantly subverted this persona for projects such as Todd Solondz’s Happiness (which features one of the most uncomfortable, brutal dinner dates ever).
He also played memorable characters in Seinfeld and The Simpsons (where he has voiced over five characters through the years). He currently has several projects in production, including Killing Hasselhoff, starring Ken Jeong, Justin Bieber and, of course, the Hoff himself.