From Cuba to Keanu; Ana de Armas continues her Hollywood growth with John Wick spinoff, ‘Ballerina’

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Ana de Armas attends the 95th Annual Academy Awards on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)Ana de Armas attends the 95th Annual Academy Awards on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
Ana de Armas attends the 95th Annual Academy Awards on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images) | Getty Images
From not having any knowledge of US pop culture to becoming a US pop culture icon - the career of Ana de Armas continues to grow with the new John Wick film, Ballerina.

Fans of what PeopleWorld have this morning referred to as the “John Wickiverse” will no doubt be excited over the news that the film series is set to expand away from merely just Keanu Reeves’ now iconic character. Ballerina, set for release in 2024, is the first spinoff from the successful franchise and will follow the character Rooney, who is seeking revenge for the murder of her family.

It’s double the excitement also for fans of Cuban-American actress Ana de Armas, who is set to reprise her role from the John Wick franchise as the ballerina-turned-assassin with the film set to take place between Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 of the series. However, she will be flanked by Keanu Reeves and Ian McShane, set to return to their roles in the spinoff - not that de Armas needs any support given how prolific her career has become. 

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Court of public opinion aside, it’s been a steady rise in Tinsel town for the 34-year-old Cuban native since her debut in 2006, one that has seen her go from Spanish language films to portraying (controversially) Marilyn Monroe, while also featuring in break out hits along the way. Impressive given that while growing up in Havana, de Armas reportedly had no internet access and her formative years were sculpted through Cuban pop culture rather than what was happening across the waters. 

Coincidentally, it was also with Keanu Reeves that de Armas made her first splash in Hollywood; portraying one of the dual antagonists in Eli Roth’s steamy horror Knock Knock (which also gave birth to the internet meme “it was free pizza”, cementing Keanu’s status as internet husband) in 2015, with the pair reuniting a year later in the Gee Malik Linton film Exposed. 

It would be two films from now-gilded directors that would help elevate her career even further during the mid ‘10s. Firstly, she appeared opposite Jonah Hill, Bradley Cooper and Miles Teller in Todd Phillip’s 2015 film War Dogs, but had an even bigger screen presence in the much heralded Blade Runner 2049, directed by Dennis Villneuve. She featured heavily alongside Ryan Gosling, playing his A.I girlfriend Joi, and sharing the screen with Harrison Ford and Jared Leto.

(L-R) Actors Jaeden Martell, Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Michael Shannon and Katherine Langford attend the photocall for Lionsgate's "Knives Out" at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on November 15, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)(L-R) Actors Jaeden Martell, Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Michael Shannon and Katherine Langford attend the photocall for Lionsgate's "Knives Out" at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on November 15, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)
(L-R) Actors Jaeden Martell, Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Michael Shannon and Katherine Langford attend the photocall for Lionsgate's "Knives Out" at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on November 15, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images) | Getty Images

But it would be 2019 when Ana de Armas became recognised as a future leading actress, stealing the show from heavyweights such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer, Michael Sheehan and Chris Evans in Rihan Johnson’s smash hit Knives Out. She portrayed Marta Cabrera, the beloved carer of family patriarch Harlan Thrombey, until she ends up bestowed with something that the members of the family believe, in a very spoiled fashion, is their birth right.

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To be surrounded by a stellar cast of experienced performers, all with English as their first language, and to stand toe-to-toe acting with them was something that producers saw and decided to give Ana de Armas the breathing room to perhaps lead her own films. She would end up gaining significant screen time once again in Sergio and The Night Clerk, before providing a smaller yet one the less integral role as CIA agent Paloma in the 2021 James Bond caper, No Time to Die.

Perhaps the big test for de Armas as a lead actress came when she was chosen to portray pop icon Marilyn Monroe in the 2022 psychological drama Blonde. The casting choice before the film even screened courted controversy, with many questioning if de Armas could pull off Monroe's American inflection. 

Though the film was regarded as “highly divisive,” the poor reception was more focused on the adaptation of the film from the source material originally penned by Joyce Carol Oates alongside the writing and dialogue throughout the film. The one redeeming feature, and a common thread regarding reviews for the film, was how impressive de Armas’ performance was. 

So if de Armas can survive a film about a beloved pop cultural figure, and still get cast in another lead role, this time in the AppleTV+ original Ghosted with Chris Evans (again), it’s pretty much a testament to how resilient de Armas is as a performer and as a celebrity. Many bigger names have gone on social media to throw disdain towards critics - Elizabeth Banks, we’re looking at you.

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Perhaps the biggest compliment so far in Ana de Armas’ career comes from a frequent co-star, Jamie Lee Curtis. Having watched Blonde for the first time, Curtis has been quoted by IndieWire saying “I dropped to the floor. I couldn't believe it. Ana was completely gone. She was Marilyn." High praise for someone who’s family had worked directly with Marilyn before - Tony Curtis, the father of Jamie Lee, starred opposite Monroe in Some Like It Hot in 1959.

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