Regarded as the father of Chicano theater in the U.S. and director of the films La Bamba and Zoot Suit.
He put on puppet shows in his garage while in grammar school.
He became the first Chicano director to direct a Broadway play in 1979 with Zoot Suit, which was later made into a film.
His brother was actor Daniel Valdez.
His big breakthrough, 1987's La Bamba, was a biopic of the 1950s rock star Ritchie Valens.