James Franco was cast as Fidel Castro & Latino actors are justifiably mad about it

We haven’t talked or written about James Franco in nearly two and a half years. I would have happily ignored him for the rest of my life, but here we are. In January 2018, Franco was finally exposed for his poor treatment of (often young) women. Former coworkers and the young female students at his “acting school” spoke about how he sexually exploited them and harassed them, and he was just overall a giant creep. Franco halfway disappeared for a few years, only popping up to whine about how the accusations “tarnished a decent man’s reputation.” Now that the Me Too movement has been maimed by misogynists and the Pick Me women, Franco is angling for a comeback. His comeback vehicle is apparently… playing Fidel Castro in a movie. So now the Latino actors are pissed off.

Oscar nominee and 2x Golden Globe winner James Franco will play Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Miguel Bardem’s Alina of Cuba with Imagen Award winner Mía Maestro set to play Natalia “Naty” Revuelta, the Cuban-born socialite he has a passionate love affair with.

They join previously announced actress Ana Villafañe who is portraying Alina Fernandez aka Castro’s Daughter. The screenplay from Oscar-nominated scribe Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries) and Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz, follows the true-life story of Cuban exile turned social advocate, Fernandez, whose birth was the result of the tryst between Revuelta and Castro. Revuelta sacrificed her and her physician husband’s personal belongings and finances to help fund the start of the communist revolution. Fernandez learned that she was Fidel Castro’s daughter at the age of 10 when after years of secret visits to her home, her mother finally revealed that “El Comandante” was her biological father. Alina grew to become one of Castro’s most outspoken critics, arrested on more than one occasion for trying to leave, and was classified as a dissident forbidden to travel outside of Cuba. Ultimately, she defected to Spain in 1993, an event that drew headlines from every major news network around the world, before she made Miami her permanent home.

[From Deadline]

Again, James Franco is not Cuban or Latino or Hispanic or even a fluent Spanish speaker. Franco is just going to turn up on set on August 15th and try to simper and vibe his way through playing…Fidel Castro…??? Arguably one of the most famous and recognizable Cubans in history? John Leguizamo had some thoughts:

John Leguizamo thinks the casting of James Franco as Cuban revolution leader Fidel Castro is no bueno. That’s “no good,” for those of you who aren’t Latino. Like Franco.

Deadline exclusively broke the news earlier this week that Franco, 44, will be playing Castro in the indie film Alina of Cuba. That spawned an Instagram eruption today from Leguizamo, who ranted against having a non-Latino actor in the role.

“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!”

He added, “I don’t got a prob with Franco but he ain’t Latino!”

His comments struck a nerve, drawing 10,000 likes, including new The View cohost Ana Navarro, who said she would join a boycott of the film.

“I’d like to think no Latino actor worth their salt would sign up to play and aggrandize a murderous dictator who terrorized the people of Cuba for six decades,” Navarro wrote. “For both reasons you articulated, I join you in the boycott.”

[From Deadline]

I sort of disagree with Navarro simply because… that IS a meaty role for an actor. A Latino actor. A Cuban actor, or an actor of Cuban descent. Actors portray bad or evil men all the time. Actors are cast to play Adolf Hitler and various Nazis. They can dramatize a section of Castro’s life and make this movie, that’s not really my issue. My issue is what John said – it’s simply not Franco’s story to tell. Castro is not Franco’s character to play.

PS… Who should have been cast? Leguizamo would have been great. Benicio del Toro, no lie. Demian Bichir would have been perfect? They probably wouldn’t cast Oscar Isaac because then every woman would want to bang Castro.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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67 Responses to “James Franco was cast as Fidel Castro & Latino actors are justifiably mad about it”

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  1. MF says:

    Castro’s parents were immigrants from Spain. His heritage was Spanish, so technically, a Latin American actor with Colombian (Leguizamo) or Puerto Rican (del Toro) wouldn’t be more appropriate. They really held out for a Spanish actor or Cuban actor.

    • Bettyrose says:

      It depends on how we define appropriate. A Latin American actor wouldn’t be 100% accurate because Castro was European Spanish, but it would be giving an important role to a Spanish speaking Latin actor instead of an actor with no Spanish heritage in yet another Hollywood white washing.

      • mia girl says:

        Yeah, agree, depends how we define it Bettyrose. Using these two actor examples, while Castro is two generations removed from Spain, Del Toro is three (great grandparents were from Spain). He actually has Spanish citizenship because of it.
        Leguiazamo heritage is also a large part Spanish/Basque (he was on an episode of Finding Your Roots).

        Truth is most Latin American actors will trace back to Spain in one way or another due to immigration and due to the fact that the Spanish invaded and took their lands.

        And point it, why not cast a Latino actor of any kind?!

      • Fortuona says:

        No they gave it to a man whose ancestors (his grandfather ) came from next door to Spain in Portugal – created by Galicians which Castro 1/2 was or the Canaries where his mother’s family came from which is the same group of islands with Madeira – The Macaronesian region – where Franco’s grandad came from .

        Unless Brazil is no longer counted as Latino because they speak Portugese or Haiti because they speak French which is the reason Latino even exits , or the heavy Italian numbers in Argentina/Uruguay

      • Bettyrose says:

        It’s complicated for sure because people of Southern European ancestry have had a spectrum of experiences in the new world from colonizer to colonized and different degrees of being marginalized in the US. Brazilians are Latino, but James Franco is known for playing mainstream white characters (albeit blue collar Italian in the Deuce) whereas many Latin actors are typecast and unable to get leading roles. It’s not completely off base to cast Franco (he can definitely pull off looking like Castro) but it’s also an opportunity to cast a Latin actor who has fewer opportunities. So if Latin actors have something to say here, it’s worth listening. .

      • MeganC says:

        Castor’s mother was born in Cuba, as was he. As a staunch anti-imperialist and it would be intellectually dishonest to associate Castro’s identity with anywhere but Cuba. Franco was cast because he has a high level of name recognition and probably works pretty cheap these days.

      • Lucky Charm says:

        I’d add Javier Bardem to the list of potentials.

    • DouchesOfCambridge says:

      I was siding with leguizamo on this one but then I read a comment somewhere saying “well, didn’t they cast Ana De Armas for marylin monroe and she still had her cuban accent” and now, I dont know what to think anymore. Can we have it both ways?

      • Cat says:

        White, Attractive actress’s (who would all be in the running to play MM) are not marginalised (well not as much as minorities anyway)

      • Bettyrose says:

        Cat – That’s the heart of matter. Most female roles are written for white actresses, so that one casting decision didn’t contribute to marginalizing white actresses.

      • MeganC says:

        Marilyn’s mother was born in Mexico and Marilyn herself deeply identified with Mexican culture. Hollywood whitewashed that out of her public persona to ensure she appealed to white movie goers.

    • Snoozer says:

      Oh my gosh the entertainment subreddit is a mess of white bros shouting down anyone that agrees with John because of this. They are also banging on about how Franco’s father is from a similar part of the Portuguese border as Castro’s parents (unverified).

      I don’t think it matters because of the following:

      1. There are plenty of Latino actors with a European/Spanish/Portuguese background. Latino isn’t a race. You don’t need a non-Spanish speaking American with a half-similar background to match Castro’s heritage.

      2. Franco doesn’t speak Spanish. So we’ll undoubtedly get some atrocious “Spanish-accented English” accent from him.

      3. Latino actors are shockingly underrepresented in Hollywood. The number of roles available to them is not commiserate with the Latino makeup of the overall US population and the roles they ARE offered are often caricatures. Franco, as a white, American man, has had countless roles available to him. So now, when there’s a meaty Latino role available… it goes to the non-Spanish speaking white American guy. It’s frustrating. It’s not representation.

      4. Franco is a sexual assailant and should not be cast in anything.

      • Bettyrose says:

        @Snoozer – You absolutely nailed it! And the very fact that white bros are attempting to shout down any discussion proves the point that representation matters.

      • Eurydice says:

        I agree with all of this. My question would be – considering that the story is about Castro’s daughter and her life and struggles, is the Castro part “meaty”? Or is it just that Franco is a well-known name and we’re assuming that he will have a major role?

      • Cait says:

        Zoe Saldana has been in si many huge franchises, but I know when people especially when those people are Latinos they do not count the Latinas that look like her. Or the Dominican actor that won the Enmy for ” When they see Us ” . It’s one of the reasons no one takes Latino cries for inclusion and representation seriously. Everyone sees how colorstruck , racist ( Gina Rodriguez, John Leguizamo and Rita Moreno) and exclusionary they are. So many of their projects fail in America because they want the Whitest and of the White Latinos as their only representation

      • Snoozer says:

        @Cait – sorry; but counting the roles of one or two superstar Latino actors doesn’t negate the overall trends and statistics. It’s like when female actresses point out how much good roles disappear once they hit a certain age and people point to Meryl Streep like she’s the rule, not the exception.

        In the Variety article on this subject, they go on to say:

        “Leguizamo often advocates for Latino representation in Hollywood, telling People magazine in 2020, “We’re less than 1% of the stories told by Hollywood and streaming media and networks when we’re almost 20% of the population, 25% of the U.S. box office. I just feel like it’s such a damage to kids not to see themselves reflected back in positive ways.””

        These kinds of stats usually come from studies, like the kind the Geena Davis Institute provides. Those institutes would need to have clear guidelines and definitions as to how they define the parameters of their studies.

        If some of these individual Latino actors have a problem with colorism, that is a seperate issue to the number of roles available overall to latino actors. It is still important, obviously; but it doesn’t negate how few roles are available to Latino actors in Hollywood.

    • Barcelona says:

      Just a note that Benicio del Toro has previously played Che Guevara while Demian Bichir also played Fidel Castro in Soderbergh’s Che movie. So both of them are already familiar with the history behind the subject and would have been excellent choices.

  2. Eurydice says:

    Not sure what to say about this. It doesn’t look like this story is about Castro as the central character. Castro’s daughter herself says she approves of Franco’s casting – and the rest of the cast is Latino, as are the director and writers, several of the producers and the people who did the casting. OTOH, after such careful effort to create an inclusive production, why would they go with Franco for such an iconic character? Is he putting money into the production?

    • AmB says:

      @Eurydice – Food for thought, thanks.

    • BeanieBean says:

      That’s what I couldn’t understand, given this is basically a Latinx-produced project–how did they make the head-scratching decision of Franco for Castro? It makes zero sense. Follow the money, I guess. Who’s financing this?

  3. Fernanda says:

    I’m not defending Franco nor do I care about him as actor. But isn’t he of Portuguese descent? I remember he told that in some interview ages ago. If that counts as Latino? Guess not since he doesn’t speak Spanish. I agree Bachir would be perfect for this role!

    • Maddy says:

      He’s 1/4th Portuguese and Portuguese people aren’t Latino.
      Latino = someone from Latin America / some with Latin American ancestry
      Hispanic = someone from a Spanish speaking country / someone with Spanish ancestry.

      James Franco is neither.

    • SMS says:

      Not defending either but he has a tiny fraction of Portuguese blood in him; I could see the resemblance though and he will be easy to characterize as Fidel. BTW, Latinos are from Latin America so Portuguese speaking Brazilians are Latinos. Portuguese and Spaniards are European hence excluded from the Latino pool, which is strange, considering that they are the Latins of Europe.

      • BeanieBean says:

        Latin America is latin due to the Spanish & Portuguese colonization, just as the US & Canada are Anglo due to the English colonization. But Americans & Canadians are NOT English, just as Cubans & Brazilians (to choose just a couple of examples) are not Spanish or Portuguese. They are very much New World people, with their own cultures. Franco is American (oh, gad, Franco-American!) & very much a poor choice to play Castro.

    • Desdemona says:

      Yes, his father is half Portuguese from Madeira Island. Latino has more than one meaning, depending on where you’re from. it can refer to: Latin Americans., people from South and Central America, European Latin – people from countries where the language spoken is a Latin language:Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, etc.. And of course Latin from the Roman empire. I know for Americans being Latin is solely south Americans, but it’s wider than that… There is even the expression : Latin blooded and in Europe it refers to both Latin American as well as Latin Europeans. Different perspectives on the term Latin…

      • Desdemona says:

        To explain a little bit better, we don’t consider ourselves Latinos but Latin blooded… Which causes confusion because for us Europeans it’s about the language we speak…

      • MeganC says:

        In America, Latino refers exclusively to people from Central and South America. Latinos are considered people of color. Europeans are considered white. In a country where race and racism are so prevalent, calling someone with Portuguese ancestry Latino to justify casting him as Castro is ridiculous.

      • Marisol says:

        @MeganC not every Latino is considered POC. There are plenty of white Latinos (Cameron Diaz, Ana de Armas, Christina Aguilera, Karla Souza, Diego Luna, Pedro Pascal as examples).

      • MeganC says:

        @Marisol – my point wasn’t about colorism, it’s about who is and is not considered Latino in the US.

      • Desdemona says:

        @MeganC and you’re right…
        It’s a strange concept. Funnily Brazilians don’t Id themselves as latinos… Just Brazilian… We’re all learning..
        I didn’t call Portuguese Latinos, but European Latins…
        Besides I disagree withFranco being chosen because he is an idiot (and I’m being nice)

        Marisol is right – latino is about culture and not race…

    • Cee says:

      You are latin if you were born in latin america, period. Franco’s dad can be portuguese but that doesn’t make him latino, nor his descendants. He comes from the Iberian Penninsula. I’m almost sure he’s not hispanic either. He’s European. The US seems to be one of the few counties in the world mistaking geographical region (LatAm) with ethnicity.
      I could argue that an american born to latin parents could also be categorised as latino, but their ethnicity would also play a role.
      Brazillians do not recognise themselves as part of Latin America – they’re South Americans.
      If Fidel Castro’s parents or grandparents were from Spain then he would be Hispanic (besidres Cuban obviously).

      This role should go to a latino actor, not even a Spaniard. Same thing happened when Madonna was cast as Eva Duarte de Perón. Biggest WTF in cinematic history.
      There are countless latino actors in the US waiting for a chance to shine. I am sure there are many cuban-american actors qualified to portray Fidel Castro.

    • A says:

      My Dad is Portuguese, and I can confirm … that is NOT Latino (or Hispanic)

      Portuguese & Spanish share that they are European (location), Iberian (location) & Latin (language – similar to France, Italy & Romania)

  4. Maddy says:

    The director I think responded and his response made no damn sense. Just acting obtuse.
    And I’ve seen people bring up Ana de Armas playing Marilyn as a mean to justify Franco’s casting and all that tells me is that they really don’t get it. A Latino/Hispanic person playing a (historic) White character is way less common than White actors playing Latino/Hispanic roles. Catherine Zita Jones, anyone?

    They just need to admit they casted Franco for clout and didn’t care about Hispanic/Latino representation.

  5. Steph says:

    I’d be more mad that he was cast based off his sexual harassment history, but that’s just me.

    • Lucy says:

      That part. This shouldn’t even be a conversation because he should no longer have an acting career

    • Taehyung's Noona says:

      Right, Steph?

    • Chaine says:


    • hmp says:

      Thank you Steph. This man gave me C-PTSD and a decade of depression. It’s been 13 years, and I only learned how to really enjoy sex in the last year. There are many more people he hurt who have never spoken out.

      • hmp says:

        It probably sounds silly, and I don’t know if people always realize it, but the people these people hurt read comments. Every time I read a comment about him that says he isn’t that bad, or it’s no big deal, I feel truly awful. Every time I see a comment like yours, it gives me a bit of hope. It’s really hard to have your trauma judged on the world stage, especially when most of the facts are not public. We’re out here, reading, and it just means a lot.

  6. Ferdinand says:

    Where was this thinking when John portrayed Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec ?

    So it if ok when he plays other nationalities but not when somebody else wants to portray Latinos?

    • Maddy says:

      It would be OK if the scale on this was even, but it’s not.

      Whitewashing is a thing in Hollywood.

      Latinowashing, Blackwashing or Asianwashing are not.

      I hope this makes sense and didn’t come off too harsh.

  7. mia girl says:

    As a Cuban-American I really do wish they’d cast a Latino actor. There are so many to chose from in Hollywood and throughout Latin America.

    I also ask myself why cast Franco is ANYTHING at this point? He’s despicable. But then again, maybe that’s what they are going for in this casting. Alina Fernandez lived the post revolutionary reality of Cuba, and became a vocal critic of her father. If this movie is from her pov then I’d expect Castro will be portrayed in a unflattering light in how he turned the people’s revolution into oppression of his people. Maybe they were down with a questionable actor, regardless of heritage, to play him.

    Truth is most exiled, immigrant Cuban or Cuban-American actors would be weary to play this part. It’s a land-mine role for our community.

    PS Pedro Pascal would be great.

  8. lunchcoma says:

    Whether than dissecting Franco’s pedigree, I’m just going to say that James Franco shouldn’t be in anything. He’s a pretentious, abusive jerk. I’m sure they could find someone Spanish, Cuban, or even part Portuguese who’s not so gross.

  9. AnneL says:

    That’s a weird choice and I don’t why they made it. I would have tried one of the actors other have mentioned, or maybe Pedro Pascal? But maybe they wouldn’t take what is apparently not a lead role.

    I was so disappointed to hear he was a lech because I liked him as an actor. He was very funny in “The Interview.” But talent does not equal character or class.

  10. Concern Fae says:

    Let’s also be honest that he for the part because of his Oscar nomination. Remember the producer who talked about the fact that the money people wouldn’t even look at a “prestige” project without an actor who had at least an Oscar nomination. Some would only look at ones with Oscar winners.

    So if the small group of Oscar nominated Latino actors passed on the project, do they give up or go with someone who at least looks a bit like Castro? How many people get the work, recognition and attention if the film gets made? If you are willing to shut your film down rather than cast James Franco, you probably aren’t someone who can work in Hollywood. Sucks, but I’m a realist.

    • lunchcoma says:

      I agree that this is probably how the decision got made. I guess to me, the question is whether audiences should try to do anything about it. Personally, I’m sick of whitewashing and abusive men getting a million chances, so it seems like skipping movies like this is a way of voting for Oscar nominee to not be the first consideration in casting.

  11. Sof says:

    Ah, the eternal debate of whether Latino is a culture or a race… (for us Latin Americans it’s a culture, it doesn’t matter where your parents or grandparents were born. Particularly in the south where most of us are of European descent). I understand it’s different for Latinos living in United States, ancestry is viewed differently there, right?
    What I find insulting is when Hollywood casts a Latin American (or Spaniard!) to play a person from another country and the actor/actress doens’t speak with the proper accent in the few Spanish scene every movie has. It’s as if for them the whole continent was the same! I’ve yet to see a proper Che Guevara accent.

    • Desdemona says:

      Yep… I always perceived Latinos as south americans with a specific culture… Never understood the colour part…

    • A says:

      This is another very good point that you bring up, regarding Spanish accents. Keeping with the theme of the post, I remember hearing somewhere that, on the recent reboot of One Day At A Time, they wrote it so that the oldest daughter character on the show doesn’t know how to speak Spanish, because the actress in the role is Colombian, and spoke Spanish with way too strong of a Colombian accent to reliably pass for Cuban American on the show.

  12. BlueSky says:

    This reminds me of when Zoe Saldana was casted as Nina Simone and she was so insufferable and defensive about. I kept saying to myself “so you couldn’t find a dark skinned black woman to play this role?”

  13. A says:

    Uhhh, outside of the facial resemblance, James Franco has really none of the physicality and presence of Fidel Castro. As someone pointed out in another comment, it’s likely that they cast him in this movie because he is Oscar nominated, and that’s one of the only ways this film would have gotten investors.

    As for the rest of the debate, a few things: ames Franco being 1/4 Portuguese does not, in fact, make him Latino. Like. Wtf is going on with the absolutely ridiculous people making that argument? Yes, there are white people who are Latino, and yes, race is a thorny and sticky subject in South America, with its own complex debate that many people aren’t exactly familiar with if they are not from there. But James Franco, unless there’s some information out there to indicate otherwise, is definitely not Latino.

    Similar to that, there’s another immensely complicated debate about Fidel Castro and his legacy. Obviously, Cuban Americans have their own views and opinions on this subject, and that is their right.

    But there is a wide spectrum of views about Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution across South America, and even among the Latino community in America itself. And while I don’t have an issue with John Leguizamo expressing his reservations about being able to tell a story with Fidel Castro in it without aggrandizing him, it’s enormously amusing to me that Ana Navarro, who has famously talked about how her family is from Nicaragua and supported the Contras (of the Iran-Contra scandal fame), had to chip in her two cents and concern trolling about how she hopes “no Latino actor worth their salt” would take on this role, LMAO. She has a right to her opinion, but it’s important and necessary to know the context in which her opinion resides, particularly because she’s not Cuban American (and hopefully this also sheds some light into exactly how complicated and weird discussions about figures like Fidel Castro can get within the Latino community).

    • Bonsai Mountain says:

      So glad someone posted this re: Castro’s complicated legacy. Ana is throwing the phrase ‘murderous dictator’ around, but that could easily apply to some leaders in the West.

      • A says:

        Heck, it could just as easily apply to the sorts of people and movements Ana Navarro herself has openly talked about supporting! The Contras in Nicaragua weren’t exactly benevolent angels either, but that hasn’t stopped Ana Navarro from talking about how the reason she became a Republican was because of Reagan’s support for them in the 1980s. I have no idea if she’s since talked about grappling with the, uh, complicated (to put it mildly) legacy of the Contras, but if she hasn’t, well then…the hypocrisy is a little breath taking, even if it’s something to be expected.

  14. Erika says:

    1. Give Latinx actors the chance to tell their own stories! And stop taking roles that aren’t meant for you! It shouldn’t be this challenging in 2022 to figure it out. Listen to John Leguizamo‘s stories on IG right now for more context. 2. Franco is a predator and bully. Why is he back??

  15. Aurora says:

    It would be very difficult for a non-Cuban to convey how Fidel was regarded in his own place. Yes the guy acted out, had a messianic complex, issued terrible policies, and suppressed much of what we know as civil rights on a country he pretty much ruled on his own whims. But the undeniable (emotional? hypnotic?) empathy that he shared with a large portion of Cuban population were main grounds for his and his party political longevity. We can see now how, without him or the hope his brother nurtured of getting closer with US, Cuban government is crumbling.
    Fidel’s ego fed from his appeal to the masses, which again only a Cuban (as opposed to someone with an external, opinion-based approach) could depict for a complete portrait. Miami is shock full of Cuban and Cuban-descendant actors… Would it have been so difficult to find one who could play Fidel?

  16. Cait says:

    It’s fascinating the White / light Latinos understand representation when they want. When it was “In the Heights” and black Latinos wanted to get some shine and or not be erased from roles that were originally assigned in the play version . The white passing and Mestizo Latinos told black Latinos to shut up and stand down.

  17. Normades says:

    This is terrible casting on so many levels. For the sake of their own project, I don’t why they would do this. As we keep seeing over and over hire problematic actors and problems will follow.

  18. Robin Samuels says:

    Nomenclature is tricky. I believe this issue is more about affordability than availability. Franco is damaged goods attempting to resurrect his character. I’m not sure I agree that rebuilding his character should be at the expense of Fidel Castro. The luxury of white men, They played Native Americans (also known as Indians) in Western films. When race becomes an issue and Spanish-speaking Caucasians who don’t want to identify as a person of color quickly refer to their ancestry tracing back to Spain. In other words, they can’t possibly be a person of color. FACT: The Moors conquered the Iberian Peninsula and ruled Spain and Portugal for hundreds of years.

  19. dj says:

    I have 2 words: Edgar Ramirez. He is perfect and Latino.

  20. jferber says:

    This really sucks. I hate this. They couldn’t find a Hispanic actor to play Fidel Castro? Just bullshit.

  21. Thinking says:

    Is James Franco still marketable after all the scandals? His casting surprises me in that sense.

    Whenever a white actor is picked, I assume it’s because he or she has box-office clout. I don’t associate James Franco with making the big bucks at the box-office.

  22. Mcali says:

    How is Franco being a CREEP not an issue anymore??? That should be first on the list of why this casting is messed up. Really p***es me off.

  23. joey says:

    It’s because many of us Latinos are sick of white Americans whitewashing and telling our stories. and Franco has been consistently accused of sexual misconduct and harassment.