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John Leguizamo Furious Over James Franco's Casting as Fidel Castro

CBR logo CBR 8/6/2022 Lucy Jolliff
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Actor John Leguizamo is angry that James Franco has been cast to play famous Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro in an upcoming film.

"How is this still going on? How is Hollywood excluding us but stealing our narratives as well?" Leguizamo, who was born in Colombia, wrote in an Instagram post. He went on to call for a boycott of the movie, saying, "No more appropriation Hollywood and streamers! Boycott! This F’d up! Plus seriously difficult story to tell without aggrandizement which would b wrong! I don’t got a prob with Franco but he ain’t Latino!"

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There have been several Hollywood movies in the last decade to see threats of boycotts over "appropriation" or "whitewashing" in casting, including Ghost in the Shell, which cast Scarlett Johansson as a character who was Asian in the source material, and the Netflix live-action adaptation of manga and anime Death Note, which saw major backlash for transplanting the story from Japan to America. Leguizamo himself, who played Luigi in the 1993 live-action Super Mario Bros. movie, was also critical of the "all white" casting of the upcoming animated Mario after the "groundbreaking color-blind casting" of the original.

A Sensitive Subject to Adapt

Leguizamo added that there are other concerns with adapting the story of Fidel Castro, an extremely controversial figure who was the leader of Cuba from 1976 to 2008 and only died in 2016. "Plus seriously difficult story to tell without aggrandizement which would b wrong! [sic]," said Leguizamo in his post. Still, a Latino actor not having been cast to play a prominent Latino figure is clearly his main issue, as he finished by saying, "I don’t got a prob with Franco but he ain’t Latino!" Franco is Portuguese and Swedish ancestry on his father's side and of Russian Jewish ancestry on his mother's side.

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The film itself is Alina of Cuba, and will follow the life of Alina Fernandez, Castro's illegitimate daughter who didn't find out who her father was until the age of ten, and grew up to be an anti-Castro activist. It's set to star Ana Villafañe as Alina and Mía Maestro as her mother Natalia “Naty” Revuelta, and will also feature Leguizamo's Encanto co-star María Cecilia Botero in an as-yet-unnamed supporting role. Fernandez herself is heavily involved in the film, which is being written by Oscar-nominee José Rivera and Pulitzer Prize-winner Nilo Cruz, and is set to begin filming later this month in Colombia.

This project is one of the first announced for Franco since a sexual misconduct lawsuit filed in 2019, which the actor settled in 2021 for $2.23 million. Franco was nominated for Best Actor for 127 Hours at the 2011 Oscars, and won the Golden Globe for Actor in a Musical or Comedy for The Disaster Artist in 2018.

Alina of Cuba currently has no release date.

Source: Instagram

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