The son of a Cuban general, he settled in the United States to study in New York's Actor's Studio and became an American citizen. After an unsuccessful start in the United States, he relocated to Italy, where he gradually became a very successful performer. He lived in Italy for over 25 years. Although his voice was dubbed most of the time due to his accent, Milian performed his lines in Italian (or in English, depending on the film). He initially starred in arthouse movies and worked with directors such as Mauro Bolognini and Luchino Visconti. He soon became a star in spaghetti westerns, where he often played Mexican bandits or revolutionaries, roles in which he spoke in his real voice. As the genre dwindled, Milian remained a star in many genre films, often playing the villain in polizieschi movies. He starred with Barbara Bouchet in Non si sevizia un paperino (1972).
He later turned to comedy, playing the recurrent characters of petty thief "Monnezza" and "Serpico"-like police officer "Nico Giraldi" in a variety of films. Although his voice was dubbed most of the time by Ferruccio Amendola, Milian wrote his own lines in Roman slang. Milian's inventive use of romanesco (roman dialect) made him somewhat of a cult performer in Italy, even though his later films were critically panned. Bruno Corbucci the director of many of these films commented, "At the cinemas as soon as Tomás Milian appeared on the screen, when he made a wisecrack and in the heaviest situations, then it was a pandemonium, it was like being at the stadium." As Milian used similar makeups and accents in portraying both characters, Monnezza and Nico were occasionally confused by Italian audiences, who sometimes referred erroneously to them both as Monnezza, or Er Monnezza (Da trash in slang), and still closely associate Milian with these performances.
As he aged, Milian found himself less in demand after renouncing his previous screen personas. He eventually decided to go back to the US, where he pursued a low-key career as a character actor. He acted on stage as well as appearing in movies such as Sydney Pollack's Havana (1990), Steven Spielberg's Amistad (1997), Steven Soderbergh's Traffic (2000), and in Andy Garcia (2)'s The Lost City (2005), about revolutionary Cuba. In 2005, he played the part of "Generalisimo Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina" in the movie version of the book La Fiesta del Chivo (The Feast of the Goat) by the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa.
Singles & EPs
|3099||Tomas Milian||La Piazza (7")||CBS||3099||Italy||1967||Sell This Version|
|AMP 46||Orchestra Nicolai* Canta Tomas Milian||Orchestra Nicolai* Canta Tomas Milian - Espanto En El Corazon (7", Promo)||CAM||AMP 46||Italy||1968||Sell This Version|
|DTP 54||Tomas Milian||Presto Presto Scusa Scusa (7")||det||DTP 54||Italy||1970||Sell This Version|