Meet the Mexican Model Behind the Oscar Statue

The coveted Oscar statue was modeled after Mexican actor Emilio Fernandez.

ByABC News
February 20, 2013, 3:35 PM

Feb. 22, 2013— -- The Oscar is probably the most recognizable and iconic award in all of entertainment -- close your eyes and it's easy to picture that shiny, golden, angular-featured little guy. And, as it turns out, that much-coveted statue owes his dashing good looks to a real human being -- Emilio Fernández.

Born in Coahuila, Mexico in 1904, Fernández worked as a screenwriter, actor, and director in both the Mexican and American film industries. You might recognize some of the classic films he's worked on, like 1947's The Fugitive, 1964's The Night of the Iguana, and 1974's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. But even if you've never seen a single one of his films, you've still seen his work -- as the model for the Oscar statuette.

In 1928, MGM chief art director Cedric Gibbons needed a model to help him design the look for a trophy. Famed Mexican actress and Hollywood star Dolores del Río (who would go on to marry Gibbons) knew of the perfect guy: Her friend, Emilio.

Although he was initially and understandably hesistant to strip down and pose with a large sword, Fernández eventually gave in, giving us the look of the Academy Award. The trophy was eventually and officially nicknamed the "Oscar" in 1939, but it could very well be called the "Emilio."