Leon IchasoAug 3, 1948, Havana, Cuba
Imported into the Hollywood scene, Ichaso found his talent for telling tough stories of the big city slotted primarily into action series on TV (e.g., "Miami Vice," "Crime Story," "The Equalizer"). His TV-movies have been along a similar line, including the gangster drama "The Take" (USA Network, 1990) and the psychological thriller "A Kiss to Die For" (NBC, 1993). Ichaso returned to the big screen with the Wesley Snipes vehicle, "Sugar Hill" (1994), a character study wedded to a violent crime drama of a New York drug empire. The reviews were mixed but the box-office was disappointing.For the next several years, Ichaso found steady employment in TV-movies, some of which were adaptations of acclaimed plays while others were biopics. "Zooman" (Showtime, 1995) was an excellent adaptation of an Off-Broadway play dealing with a family coping with the murder of child. "Execution of Justice" (Showtime, 1999) was also derived from a short-lived Broadway play that detailed the events behind the murders of San Francisco mayor George Mosconi and supervisor Harvey Milk. While told from the point of view of the assassin, Dan White, Ichaso's film remained neutral and demonstrated that the questions surrounding one of the most charged events of the 20th Century could not be reduced to simple answers.Ichaso next tackled a pair of small screen biographies that were in some ways warm-ups for his return to feature filmmaking. The middling "Ali: An American Hero" (Fox, 2000) was hampered by its script, but the director managed to elicit a formidable performance from newcomer David Ramsey as the prizefighter just as "Hendrix" (Showtime, 2000) benefited from its unknown star Wood Harris. In the case of the latter, the film began strongly but frittered away its power to become a standard issue biopic, offering little than the bare facts of the musician's life. The spark that made him doesn't shine through. Ichaso employed an intriguing trick of shifting between black-and-white and color footage which was both effective and distracting. For the biographical feature "Pinero" (2001), he used the same technique with similar results. A look at the life of Puerto Rican author Miguel Pinero who had the soul of a poet but lived the life of a thief, the movie offered a prime role for actor Benjamin Bratt. Ichaso employed a collage-like approach to the author's life, including flashbacks, drug-induced dreams and scenes from stage performances to create a portrait of an intriguing, if difficult person.