Fidel Castro’s Family Reacts To Upcoming James Franco Biopic

James Franco's casting as Fidel Castro is controversial, and the late Cuban leader's family has joined in the discourse.

By Douglas Helm | Published

James Franco

Though there has been some controversy around James Franco’s casting as Fidel Castro, he recently got a very important seal of approval from Fidel Castro’s daughter, Alina Fernández. Speaking to Deadline, Fernández said, “James Franco has an obvious physical resemblance with Fidel Castro, besides his skills and charisma.” Fernández herself will be portrayed by Ana Villafañe and Mía Maestro will play her mother, Natalia “Naty” Revuelta. The biopic is set to be centered on Fernández’s story as Castro’s daughter.

Alina of Cuba will be directed by Miguel Bardem with a script from Jose Rivera and Nilo Cruz. It will follow the true story of Alina Alina Fernández, who was born from a love affair between Castro and Natalia Revuelta. Alina would eventually learn at the age of 10 that Castro was her father after he would make secret visits to her home for years. Alina would become one of the most outspoken critics of Castro, being arrested multiple times. She would eventually defect to Spain in 1993. Along with James Franco, Ana Villafañe, and Mía Maestro the cast of Alina of Cuba also includes Alanna de la Rosa, Maria Cecilia Botero, Harding Junior, Sian Chiong, and Rafael Ernesto Hernandez.

The initial controversy around James Franco’s casting began when John Leguizamo took to social media to air his grievances with Hollywood appropriating Latino stories, saying that he had no problem with Franco himself, but that Franco isn’t Latino. The movie’s producer was quick to respond, criticizing Leguizamo’s comments and saying they “lack any factual substance.” Defenders of Franco’s casting cite his Portuguese heritage and his similar facial structure as reasons why the casting is legitimate. Detractors are saying that the casting decision is whitewashing an iconic figure from Latin history.

James Franco’s casting is meeting pushback for more than just cultural reasons. Others have also pointed out Franco’s recent sexual misconduct accusations. The actor was accused in 2018 of sexually exploitative behavior by several women. In 2021, Franco settled a sexual misconduct lawsuit with two former actresses at his acting school Studio 4, Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal. The allegations were denied by Franco’s legal team.

Others feel like James Franco’s casting is adding to the influx of bad news for Latin content and Latin members of the industry. In the wake of the Warner Discovery merger, the Batgirl movie was canceled, despite being essentially complete. The film starred Latin actress Leslie Grace, who previously starred in In the Heights as Nina Rosario. HBO Max also canceled the series Gordita Chronicles, which followed a Latin reporter as she looked back on her childhood as a Dominican immigrant growing up in Miami. Some are feeling like there is a lot of Latin erasure going on in the industry right now and that Franco’s casting is adding to it.

Undoubtedly, Alina Fernández’s endorsement of James Franco should go a long way. She also makes sure to note that Alina of Cuba is almost entirely Latin, with both the cast and most of the production being of Latin heritage. Production for Alina of Cuba is due to start on August 15. The movie will be shot on location in both Cartagena and Bogota, Colombia.