The Hottest New Import

Every month we get a new flavor-of-the-month actor," he says. "And it's always like, 'the new Marlon Brando.' There are so many Brandos now." Gael Garcia Bernal is not one of them. He first captured Hollywood's attention with the Oscar-nominated "Amores Perros." Last year he had the art-house crowd gushing with the erotic indie smash "Y Tu Mama Tambien" (not to mention Natalie Portman--the two are reportedly dating). But it wasn't until he walked onto the Academy Awards stage in March that the rest of the world took notice.

His task was to introduce the nominated song from Salma Hayek's "Frida." Instead, the 25-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, ignored the Academy-approved text and delivered a poetic antiwar intro of his own. It didn't hurt that he looked like some smoldering, exotic prince. Across the country you could almost hear people thinking, Who is that? Bernal was thinking something else altogether. "I was s---ting myself," he says, laughing. "But I thought I had the responsibility to say something."

He still does, so instead of starring as some hot cop in a summer flick next year, he'll be starring as hot revolutionary Che Guevara in "Motorcycle Diaries" and will play four roles, including a transvestite, in Pedro Almodovar's "Bad Education." And while he's eager to make films in the United States, this son of two actors is in no particular rush. "It's better to take things little by little," he says. "It's better to be the new big thing for 20 years." We're betting that won't be a problem.