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John Leguizamo calls James Franco’s casting in Fidel Castro film ‘appropriation’

John Leguizamo closeup
John Leguizamo is furious about the Fidel Castro movie casting. Pic credit: ©ImageCollect.com/ImagePressAgency

John Leguizamo has called out James Franco’s casting in the upcoming Fidel Castro film Alina of Cuba in a rant where he takes offense to the independent film having a non-Latino man play the role of the late Cuban president.

In an Instagram post aimed at the Castro casting choice revealed on Friday, Leguizamo shared an image of a Deadline article making the announcement.

Leguizamo explained why he was so heated about the decision in the caption.

Soon after, the John Wick actor took to Instagram again, this time to explain in more depth why Franco playing the iconic role was problematic after many took aim, calling him out for being so upset.

Now, even the producer of Alina of Cuba, John Martinez O’Felan, has responded, defending the decision to cast Franco and even calling Leguizamo’s comments “culturally uneducated.”

The film is actually named for Castro’s daughter, Alina Fernandez, whom he fathered with Natalia “Naty” Revuelta, and who only found out Castro was her father when she was 10 years old.

John Leguizamo calls out James Franco casting

When John Leguizamo saw that James Franco, who only recently returned to acting after a sexual misconduct scandal nearly ended his career, would be playing Fidel Castro in an upcoming independent film, he angrily took to Instagram with a message.

The 62-year-old actor wrote, “How is this still going on? 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!”

After seeing the response to his outrage, Leguizamo felt the need to explain.

So again, taking to Instagram, he shared his point of view.

This time, instead of an article screenshot, he made a video of himself and addressed the movie drama.

In his caption, he wrote, “Latin exclusion in Hollywood is real! 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 we they flip white roles to Latin guys and gals?”

In the video, he said, “Alright look, I’ve got no problems with James Franco.”

Then he explained that he “grew up in an era when Latin people couldn’t play Latin people on film” before naming several non-Latino actors that filled epic Latino roles, sometimes even darkening their own skin in order to play the part. He named Charlton Heston, Al Pacino, and Ben Affleck and more as actors who are not Latin but played Latin roles.

Leguizamo has been a longtime supporter of Latino inclusion and diversity in Hollywood, often speaking out in support of BIPOC roles being played by actual BIPOC people. So it isn’t surprising that he is upset to see Franco taking over such a big role, even if Franco slightly resembles the former Cuban leader.

Alina of Cuba producer hits back at John Leguizamo criticism

Alina of Cuba producer John Martinez O’Felan heard what John Leguizamo had to say about his upcoming film and was quick to respond, calling out the actor and Latino activist for his remarks, calling them “culturally uneducated.”

“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 told The Hollywood Reporter. “But his comments are culturally uneducated and a blind attack with zero substance related to this project.” 

O’Felan went on to talk about how Leguizamo’s “note is a great talking point because they represent the same confusion and identity crisis in Hollywood right now within the Hispanic community in America who are arguing that we should only identify as Latin, which is mostly because of the falsehoods being spread by the actors who are supposed to be representing us, but instead create division amongst their own people.”

Then, the Alina of Cuba director reminded readers that this movie is about Alina, Castro’s daughter, who was a Latin immigrant living in America. He also noted that the film cast and crew represent “at least seven nations from around the world” and, despite Franco’s casting, should be celebrated by Leguizamo and others rather than ridiculed.