When news broke this week that James Franco would be playing former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in the upcoming film “Alina of Cuba: La Hija Rebelde” from director Miguel Bardem, it was bound to generate some controversy. From the politically sensitive subject matter to past allegations against Franco, the film seemed destined to be a public relations lightning rod. But many have taken issue with one particular aspect of the film: the fact that Franco is playing a Latino man despite being white.
One of the loudest voices against the casting has been “Encanto” star John Leguizamo, who took to Instagram to slam the casting decision.
“How is this still going on?” Leguizamo wrote. “How is Hollywood excluding us but stealing our narratives as well? 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!”
The actor, who frequently advocates for better Hispanic representation in Hollywood, later posted a video elaborating on his own experiences with Hollywood discrimination.
“Latin exclusion in Hollywood is real,” he wrote in the caption. “Don’t get it twisted! Long long history of it! And appropriation of our stories even longer! Why can’t Latinxers play Latin roles? Why can’t we play lead roles? Why can’t they flip white roles to Latin guys and gals?”
John Martinez O’Felan, a producer on the film, responded to Leguizamo’s comments with a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter.
“A guy like John Leguizamo has historically been looked up to by Hispanics as one of America’s earliest actors of Latin descent since the 90s and I’ve always admired him as a fellow underdog,” O’Felan wrote. “But his comments are culturally uneducated and a blind attack with zero substance related to this project.”
He continued by pointing out that the film tells the true story of a Cuban woman and features a cast and crew comprised largely of Latinx people. Considering that context, he believes Leguizamo should be more supportive of the project.
“I think he should move past himself and also acknowledge that this story is about a Latin female immigrant living in America who is of historical importance, led by a Latin woman,” he wrote. “I’m just an underdog who is making it, so he should also understand that it’s kind of disappointing to see our work getting attacked by someone who claims to be a leader of the Latin community.”