Actor John Leguizamo Slams James Franco for Landing Role of Fidel Castro

by Caitlin Berard

On Thursday (August 4), award-winning actor James Franco’s newest role was announced. In the upcoming Miguel Bardem film Alina of Cuba, Franco will appear as Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro, a decision that sparked outrage across social media.

Moulin Rouge star John Leguizamo was particularly vocal in his displeasure, stating that, although he believes James Franco to be a talented actor, he would much prefer to see a Latino play the Cuban leader.

“How is this still going on?” John Leguizamo wrote on Instagram in response to the news. “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!”

John Leguizamo Gives More Context to His Complaints

As one might expect, John Leguizamo’s original post garnered mixed reactions. While some wholeheartedly agreed with the discouraged actor, others claimed that most TV and film are all about bringing audiences into fictional creations, whether based on reality or not.

As such, any actor should be able to play any role, regardless of ethnicity. In response to these comments, John Leguizamo posted a follow-up statement in which he agreed. That should be the case. However, it doesn’t always work out that way, according to Leguizamo.

After emphasizing that his complaint is not with James Franco but Hollywood as a whole, John Leguizamo gave more context to his previous statement. “I grew up in an era where Latin people couldn’t play Latin people on film,” he explained. “But Charlton Heston played a Mexican, Eli Wallach played a Mexican, [Al] Pacino played a Cuban and Puerto Rican. Ben Affleck, even, in Argo, played a Latin guy.”

“We couldn’t play our own roles. There was brown face! You know, people painting themselves to look Latin,” he continued. “That’s the era I grew up in. The era where they told you to change your name, stay out of the sun, that only white Latinos or white-passing Latinos would get jobs.”

“And they weren’t even the main leads because every time you ask them they’d go, ‘But there’s no Latin actor who can carry that movie’. Yeah, because you never give them the opportunity to play anything that was of worth.”

“So, appropriating our stories? No more of that,” John Leguizamo concluded. “I’m done with that. Why can’t Oscar Issac be Oscar Isaac Hernandez? Because [he] can’t… And it should be an equal playing field. We should all be able to play whatever role…but that’s not the way it works. It only goes one way.”