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Six Degrees of Raul Julia

Published: September 18, 2005

When Merel Julia, the widow of the actor Raul Julia, read in the trades last month that a movie about her late husband's life was set to begin filming in Los Angeles on Aug. 17, concern, not pride, was the feeling that overcame her. Her worries had to do with a familiar name: Raul Julia Jr., listed in the Aug. 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter as associate producer of "A Kiss and a Lie: The Raul Julia Story."

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Mark Mainz/Getty Images

Associated Press

"Since 1996, I have been aware of an impostor claiming to be the son of my late husband," Mrs. Julia said in an e-mail message to The New York Times. "He uses the name Raúl Juliá Jr. or Raúl Juliá-Levy, and says that Raúl abandoned him when he was a child but that they reconciled before he died in 1994. His real name is Salvador Alba Fuentes."

Merel and Raul Julia were married in 1976. Mrs. Julia said that over the years Mr. Julia-Levy, an aspiring actor-producer, had approached the friends and professional colleagues of Mr. Julia, who died at 54 of a stroke after battling cancer, asking for money and help with his career. Mrs. Julia said she came upon the name Fuentes with the help of private investigators, one of whom refers to the man in question as F.R.J. - fake Raul Julia.

"That's ridiculous," Mr. Julia-Levy said of Mrs. Julia's claim. "I think she watches too much TV."

"I'm an open book," he added. Mr. Julia-Levy, 33, explains that he was born in Mexico City in 1972, the son of Raul Julia and a woman named Margaret Levy. Mr. Julia-Levy declined to direct an interviewer to his mother, however, saying that she was ill and did not wish to discuss the matter. He said he met his father for the first time at the age of 17 on the set of the movie "Kiss of the Spider Woman" in Cuernavaca, Mexico. (He recalled that he was 17, but the film was released in 1985, which would make him either younger then or older now.) Thereafter, he said, they struck up a relationship.

Mrs. Julia said that she was concerned not only for her husband's name, but also for Raul Julia Jr., her 22-year-old son. He is also an aspiring actor, and she fears he will be confused with the man claiming to be his half-brother. But Mr. Julia-Levy says his claim to the film role is legitimate. "I've been working in Hollywood for 13 years, and I will continue acting and making movies, with or without the help of Raul Julia," said Mr. Julia-Levy, who recently played a detective in the independent film "Vengeance." "I don't know why she won't let this go. I want her to accept my existence, but have no ill will toward her or my brothers on the East Coast."

Damian Chapa, director and producer of "A Kiss and a Lie," said he would not go forward with the film without Mrs. Julia's permission or until Mr. Julia-Levy takes a DNA test. "If he's not the son of Raul, I won't know what to think," said Mr. Chapa, who worked with Raul Julia on the 1994 film "Street Fighter." Aside from bearing a remarkable resemblance to Mr. Julia, Mr. Chapa said, Mr. Julia-Levy "has the same mannerisms and everything." He added, "If he's an impostor, he's a good one."

Mrs. Julia would like him to take a DNA test, and says he has previously committed to doing so. "I'll take a DNA test," Mr. Julia-Levy responded. "I'm willing to do whatever." He has not, however, scheduled anything. "If she wants to pay for it," he said, "she can fly me to New York."

"I'll pay for it, great - let's do it," Mrs. Julia said.

Either way, until the story about Raul Julia-Levy is resolved, Mr. Chapa said, "The Raul Julia Story" is on hold.

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