When it was announced earlier this week that James Franco would play former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in the film Alina of Cuba: La Hija Rebelde by director Miguel Bardem, it was bound to spark some outrage. From the politically sensitive topic to previous allegations against Franco, it appeared to be destined to be a public relations lightning rod. However, many have taken issue with one particular aspect of the film: Franco is playing a Latino guy despite being white.
John Leguizamo, the star of Encanto, has been one of the most vocal opponents to the casting decision.
What is still going on? Leguizamo wrote. Is Hollywood excluding us but stealing our narratives as well? Boycott! This is a really tough story to tell without aggrandizement, which would be irreversible! Franco isnt Latino!
The actor, who frequently campaigns for better Hispanic representation in Hollywood, later posted a video elaborating on his own experiences with Hollywood discrimination.
He wrote in the caption that Latin exclusion in Hollywood is real. Don't get it twisted! It's a long-running history! And appropriation of our stories for the greater good! Why can't Latinxers play lead roles? Why can't they subvert white roles to Latin guys and gals?
In a statement issued to The Hollywood Reporter, John Martinez OFelan, a producer on the film, responded to Leguizamos' remarks.
Hispanics have always admired him as an underdog since the 1990s, and Ive always admired him as a fellow underdog, according to OFelan. However, his remarks are culturally ignorant and a blind attack on this project.
He continued by stating that the film is a true story of a Cuban woman and that it includes a cast and crew composed mostly of Latinx people. Considering this context, Leguizamo should be more supportive of the project.
I think he should step out of his comfort zone and acknowledge that this story is about a Latin female immigrant living in America who was inspired by a Latin woman, and that he is just an underdog who is attempting it. He should also understand that it's rather dismal to witness our work being harmed by someone who claims to be a leader of the Latin community.