Carrillo Gantner AC trained as an actor and worked professionally in the US before returning to Australia in 1969. He was a founding director of Playbox Theatre Company (now Malthouse Theatre) and its artistic director in 1976–84 and 1988–93. During his terms he produced over 200 Australian plays and acted in many, in his final role with the company playing King Lear in a production that toured several Australian capital cities, the Tokyo Globe Theatre and Nagoya in Japan, and the Seoul Arts Centre in Korea. He was counsellor (cultural) at the Australian Embassy in Beijing in 1985–87.
Carrillo has served as chairman of the Sidney Myer Fund, president of The Myer Foundation, chairman of Asialink at Melbourne University, and president of Arts Centre Melbourne. He was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2019 for services to the performing and visual arts, and to Australia–Asia cultural exchange. He was the first recipient of the Dame Elisabeth Murdoch Cultural Leader of the Year Award in 2001. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Australia–China Institute for Arts & Culture at Western Sydney University and has honorary doctorates from WSU and the University of NSW.