Born in Dayton, Ohio, Damian (who’s of Mexican, Italian, Irish and Native American descent) grew up as the second eldest of 5 children; 2 brothers and 2 sisters. His father,Rico Chapa, owned a bar across the street, in Columbus, OH, from a go-go bar, owned by someone he knew; Larry Flynt, who’d soon go on to publish Hustler Magazine.
As a teen, Damian sold aluminum siding, and ran a go-go joint when he wast 17, for his Uncle Johnny. Johnny was shot several times, and was considered a “gangster”. Chapa’s other uncle, Enrique was a ‘hired hit man’ in Texas.
In his early 20’s, Chapa developed a serious alcohol and substance abuse problem due to his difficult childhood. One day, he decided; ‘enough was enough’, and built up the courage and strength to seek help through meetings. Chapa denied to take the artistic path instead of the troubled path in front of him. Chapa has since been successfully sober for over 25 years.
Damian served in the U.S. Navy for 3 years, traveling the world on 3 different ships Including the U.S.S. Henry B. Wilson Guided missile destroyer.
After serving in the military, Damian decided to follow in the footsteps of his favorite actor, Montgomery Cliff, and began a career in acting.
Chapa who left for New York at a very early age to Brooklyn decided to stay in the Big Apple to follow his dream of acting: He had his first. acting job in New York as a stand-in for Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” music video. This was his first step, and soon shot 2 films. His first starring role was In Blood In, Blood Out (1993), as Miklo Velka (for which he achieved worldwide notice and legions of fans, particularly within the Latino community, As well as having gone on to become the highest-grossing Latin film in history), followed by Undersiege with Tommy Lee Jones and Steven Seagull (1992). Chapa Followed up starring along side Chris Tucker in Money talks and then Playing the lead as Lyle Menendez in Menendez A killing in Beverly Hills with Beverly D’Angelo and Edward James Olmos.
Damian attended the 18th Street Theater in New York for many years, and was coached by master director Robert Easton at one time. Robert Easton said that (at the time) Chapa was one of the best young actors of our time.
Damian has also worked behind the camera. Damian opened a production company, and named it in honor of his eldest brother, Rico (‘Rico Films’), who tragically had died of cancer at the age of 30, He later changed the name to New York International Pictures.
In 1995, both Damian Chapa and Leonardo DiCaprio were in the running to do competing James Dean biopics. The James Dean Foundation, who held rights for the project, endorsed Chapa over DiCaprio.
Unfortunately, the project came to a screeching halt, when all its producers were murdered at a street light in Culver City, California, as outlined in the book Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by Rod Lurie
In 2011, whilst filming a scene for his film, Brando Unauthorized, Damian was involved in a motorcycle accident, which nearly killed him. He suffered several injuries,including a broken hand and facial bruising. As a result, the production was temporarily delayed, however, after 8 hours he got back on his feet and resumed filming. A clip of the accident can be seen in the film, during the acid trip scene.
Damian subsequently won Best Director and Best Feature awards at the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival for his film Brando Unauthorized (2011).
Damian had 4 children. His eldest son – Ricco Chapa – is also an actor, and he gave another son – Luke Chapa – the middle name “Scorsese” after his favorite film director, Martin Scorsese. Damian’s youngest son Gabriel Chapa is also starting a very young acting career.
Amongst the actors Damian’s,directed are Stacy Keach and Rachel Hunter in 4 films, Robert Wagner and Joe Estevez in 3 films, and Faye Dunaway, David Carradine, Brad Dourif and Gary Busey in 2 films. Robert Davi and Danny Trejo more recent.
Last year Damian’s starred in a film he directed; Streets of East LA. The film features, Angus Macfadyen, and Damian Chapa.
Damian’s manager is Chuck Binder whose long-time clients have included Sharon Stone and the late David Carradine. Chapa is also represented in Europe by Beatriz Oliete who landed Chapa a role in the New Woody Allen film.
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