Alex Angulo, who has died tragically in a traffic accident aged 61, was a remarkable repertory actor of the type that has marked the history of Spanish cinema.
He was the latest in a long line of Spanish comics whose apparent meekness invariably belied a wicked streak. Poe-faced, mild-mannered, short, bespectacled and balding, Angulo was never a star. His impeturbable demeanour gave force primarily to comedy (ofter playing the straight man to Santiago Segura) but at times playing subtlely understated characters in serious drama, such as Guillermo del Toro's 2006 Pan's Labyrinth.
His most celebrated role was as the priest Angel Berriatua in The Day of the Beast (1995). which earned him the first of three nominations for the Goya award (Spain's Oscars).
Alex de la Iglesia, who directed The Day of the Beast, led the tributes to Angulo in an emotional memorial held in Bilbao. De la Iglesia also hired Angulo to play the music promoter, agent and long-suffering go-between of the two rivals striving for success in Dying of Laughter (1999). Angulo specialised in this kind of function, mediating and negotiating – while simultaneously exposing from within.
Even his bit parts proved memorable. In the introductory sequences of Pedro Almodovar's Live Flesh (1998), he played the bus driver brow-beaten into helping deliver a prostitute's (Penelope Cruz) child aboard the bus he was driving.
Born in 1953 in the Basque Country, Angulo worked as a schoolteacher before joining "Karraka", the Bilbao-based theatre troupe directed by Ramon Barea with whom Angulo would often collaborate throughout his career.
His work in film was complemented by a successful career as a television actor, most notably in the long-running series Periodistas in which, as Blas Castellote, he shared the screen with some of Spain's major actors such as Belen Rueda and Jose Coronado.
Angulo's domination of the comic register marked him out as a singular voice – an everyman – of his generation. There are few actors who have better exploited the humorous effects of facial hair. With his Groucho Marx moustache, and densely-populated eyebrows, he made a virtue out of the nondescript.
A prolific actor – he participated in more than 60 films – Angulo was in the midst of shooting a new film, Bendita calamidad, at the time of his death.
Alejandro Angulo Leon, comedian and actor: born Erandio, Vizcaya, Spain 12 April 1953; died 20 July 2014.