John Leguizamo on His 30-Year Love Story with Wife Justine Maurer: ‘A Healing Force in My Life’ (Exclusive)

The couple met in the early 1990s

<p>Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic</p>

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

John Leguizamo’s wife, Justine Maurer, remembers the moment she met the man who would become her husband. He does too. “I was shooting Carlito’s Way,” he says, recalling his time on the 1993 crime drama starring Al Pacino.

“I was a costumer on the movie,” Maurer, 54, says. They met on a Manhattan corner outside a
wardrobe fitting. She was already a fan of his, having seen his critically acclaimed, politically pointed one-man shows like 1991’s Mambo Mouth. “In the early ’90s in New York you couldn’t go anywhere that somebody didn’t ask, ‘Have you seen it? Who is this guy?’ It was so explosive,” she says. Maurer had, she admits, a bit of a crush. “I thought he was cute. I asked the designers if I could be at his fitting, even though I didn’t need to be there.”It was a beautiful sunny day, they both agree, and John walked up with his dog.

“Luigi,” says Leguizamo, 63. “I’d just done Super Mario Brothers. I named the dog after my character. Justine was stunning. She was an angel. So beautiful, so sexy, just captivating.”

Related: John Leguizamo on What His 1993 Super Mario Bros. Movie Has in Common with It's a Wonderful Life (Exclusive)

So the fitting happened and then, well, not much else. At the time Leguizamo was in a relationship with actress Yelba Osorio. (The two married in 1994 and divorced in 1996.) “I think Justine and I were at very different points in our lives,” he says. “We were able to develop a friendship until the timing was right.”

“It was phone calls,” says Maurer. “We would call each other every few months and check in and have these amazing long conversations.”

One day in 1996 Maurer’s phone rang again. She remembers him saying, “I’m in the city. Do you want to come by?” The next day, the two took along Sunday-afternoon walk. “And that was when it became evident there’s something romantic here,” she says. Leguizamo admits he had been thinking about her: “I said, ‘Let’s make this something.’ And we moved in right away.”

John Leguizamo and Justine Maurer on their wedding day in 2003, courtesy John Leguizamo and Justine Maurer
John Leguizamo and Justine Maurer on their wedding day in 2003, courtesy John Leguizamo and Justine Maurer

They first lived in a bungalow at the Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles for six months.“Drew Barrymore was on one side of us, and Keanu Reeves was on the other,” recalls Leguizamo.“ I had learned a lot. I did not want a tumultuous relationship. I wanted peace. I wanted to have an oasis. And Justine gave me all of that.” They had their fun, certainly. “She loved hip-hop,” he says.“We’d go to clubs. Hip-hop is part of my life. She came with me to places where they checked her mouth for razor blades! She’s this White girl from the Upper West Side!” (“That was a new experience for me,” Maurer says with a laugh.)

“She became a healing force in my life,” continues Leguizamo, who wed Maurer in June 2003 following the birth of their daughter Allegra in 1999 and son Lucas in 2000. There, of course, have been differences. “We’re both from New York, but I went to public schools; she went to private schools,” he says. “All my friends were Latin and Black, and all her friends were White and Jewish. But that’s what made it exciting and thrilling. It wasn’t just preaching to the choir; it was converting some-body in a way. I like talking about my culture to Justine because it helps me understand where I came from and how far I’ve come.”

Related: John Leguizamo Says He Was Once Fired from a Film Because They Couldn't 'Have Two Latin People'

<p>Amy Sussman/WWD/Penske Media via Getty</p> Lucas Leguizamo, Allegra Leguizamo, Justine Maurer, and John Leguizamo

Amy Sussman/WWD/Penske Media via Getty

Lucas Leguizamo, Allegra Leguizamo, Justine Maurer, and John Leguizamo

These days Leguizamo and Maurer live in Manhattan, where he’s still performing regularly and she sits on boards focusing on city preservation. Allegra, now 24, has followed in her father’s foot-steps as an actress and director, while Lucas, now23, works in finance. Together with their children, they still celebrate their blended worldview. “I never went to a seder in my life until Justine andI had kids. It was so beautiful,” says Leguizamo.

“So we did seders and then Easter. We would do Christmas and Hanukkah.I think it gave them a strong sense of connection to where they come from.You start to see that when you have diversity and a mixed marriage, your wealth is doubled. Our kids felt that — and now live that.”

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