Cool and confident, Andy Garcia, never looks back - except, perhaps, when the golf cart’s in reverse.

In his new film, City Island, which opens this spring, Andy Garcia plays Vince Rizzo, a sweet but simple-minded New York corrections officer who smokes cigarettes and harbors secrets, shrouding private truths in a small web of white lies that grows into a tangle of domestic deceptions. His character is married but has a son who’s never met him. He dreams of being an actor but conceals the ambition, sneaking out to classes where he haltingly explores his dramatic range.

The role, in other words, is something of a stretch. In real life, after all, Garcia is a fit and worldly family man who speaks forthrightly in the lilting cadence of his native Cuba, not in the spitfire rhythms of New York. He steers clear of tobacco, except on the golf course or on sportfishing outings, when he’s been known to savor a fine cigar. He lives in Los Angeles, where he unapologetically pursues his passions and his star is etched on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

As for dramatic range, Garcia, 53, has played presidents and poets, bartenders and bureaucrats, mafiosos and government agents, and dozens of characters in between. As an actor, writer, producer, and composer, he has had a hand in slapstick comedies and slick procedurals; in sleepers and thrillers; in studio blockbusters and independent films. His work has earned him an Oscar nomination and a reputation as a thinking-fan’s favorite, a screen idol with substance, an A-lister with a high IQ.

Bottom line: If portraying Vince Rizzo is a departure, Garcia is the right man for the part.

Ocean’s Thirteen
Warner Brothers/Courtesy Everett Collection
“Is it difficult to inhabit a character that’s very different from who I am in real life?” Garcia asks. “Well, that’s all part of an actor’s craft. It’s like asking a doctor if he can do elbow surgery in the morning followed by knee surgery in the afternoon. It’s something they’ve trained their whole life to do.”

With nearly half a lifetime of experience in his profession, Garcia gracefully balances his active, sporting interests with the globe-trotting schedule of a leading man. Last fall found him in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, filming a political thriller of the same name. In the movie, Garcia plays the country’s maverick president, Mikheil Saakashvili, at the height of a tense standoff with neighboring Russia.

No sooner had the jet lag from Eastern Europe worn off when Garcia took off once again. This time Florida awaited. The Miami Symphony Orchestra was performing an orchestral arrangement of the music from The Lost City, a film Garcia directed and for which he also wrote the score.

Even now, with the most hectic of his travel months behind him, Garcia shows no signs of letting up. In collaboration with Hilary Hemingway, “Papa’s” niece, Garcia has penned a script based on Ernest Hemingway’s relationship with his captain of 20 years, Gregorio Fuentes — a relationship that helped inspire The Old Man and the Sea. An avid sportfisherman himself, Garcia first came upon the material years ago and couldn’t get the story out of his head.

“In every aspect of my life — work, sports, music, family — I go with my intuition,” Garcia says. “If something speaks to me, I follow it with all my heart.”

Even with his plate piled high with projects, Garcia makes time to indulge his favorite outdoor hobby, golf, most publicly at Pebble Beach. Every year since 1996, at the fabled links in Monterey, California, Garcia has taken part in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, a serious competition that frequently devolves into a festive goof-off. Usually, Garcia partners with PGA veteran Paul Stankowski and plays in the same foursome as his close friend, comedian George Lopez. Alongside the antic Lopez, Garcia cuts the figure of the courtly fashion plate, his dark hair framed by his trademark beret.