John Leguizamo Harshly Responds To James Franco Being Cast As Fidel Castro

By Mark McKee | Published

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Hollywood casting directors are at it again. The diversity of characters hitting the screen has never been more expansive than today. Virtually every major group of people is represented on the big and small screen, and the diversity of the actors portraying them is just as diverse. From Marvel bringing their first black superhero lead into the MCU with Black Panther and their first Asian superhero lead in Shang Chi to trans actors landing roles in Supergirl or Orange is the New Black. However, no matter how much progress we make in casting marginalized groups in pivotal roles and focusing on diversity, Hollywood proves that they are still stuck in the past. Now, John Leguizamo is speaking out against the newest instance of casting directors whitewashing a role. 

Earlier this week, Variety confirmed that James Franco would portray Fidel Castro in the new film, Alina of Cuba. While the film doesn’t focus on the revolutionary and instead follows the life of his illegitimate daughter, Alina, John Leguizamo took issue with the fact that Franco, an American actor, would be portraying the Cuban. Rightfully so, as there isn’t any real reason why the crew couldn’t find a Latino actor to do so. To make matters worse, this is a part of the actor’s return to acting three years after he was sued for sexual misconduct by two women who were students of his. In an Instagram post, John Leguizamo asks how this could still happen. He asks how Hollywood is simultaneously excluding his people from roles and still stealing their narratives The actor also points out that the story of Alina is a difficult one to tell without aggrandizement and calls for fans to boycott the film. He states that he has nothing against James Franco himself, but John Leguizamo points out that Franco “Aint Latino.”

John Leguizamo is no stranger to standing up for Latin people in film. He once told a story on Seen that he was fired from a movie because they told him they couldn’t have two Latino actors in the same film. With that kind of experience, it makes sense that he would take exception to the casting of a white man in the role of a Cuban revolutionary. The actor took to Instagram to express his frustration. 

While whitewashing a character is nothing new in Hollywood, we as a people tend to think we have moved beyond that kind of insensitivity. We look at older films like Liz Taylor as Cleopatra and John Wayne as Ghengis Kahn and believe we have evolved beyond those egregious mistakes and exclusionary tactics towards marginalized people. And just when we think Hollywood understands, they cast Scarlett Johansson as an Asian character in Ghost in the Shell, Johnny Depp as a Native American in Lone Ranger, and Jake Gyllenhaal as a Persian in The Prince of Persia. While James Franco may resemble the Cuban Castroat first glance, the fact that the casting directors felt this was the best way to go shows that John Leguizamo is fighting a fight that is a long way from over.