This is the neverending story, in a bad way. James Franco has been cast as Fidel Castro in a movie about his daughter, titled Alina of Cuba, which should be shocking and overwhelmingly condemned and it’s just …another day in Hollywood.
Responses to the casting have been varied, from the Alina of Cuba producer John Martinez O’Felan deliberately misunderstanding not just Fidel Castro’s heritage, but the issues with casting white people to play Latinos, to a general sense that this is not that blockbuster, so why are we making a big deal of it, without forgetting the ridiculous assertion that Franco’s Portuguese heritage makes him apt for the role because he looks a little bit like Castro.
But actor John Leguizamo has had perhaps the best response, and he very much represents the overwhelming sense of not just frustration, but anger, that Latines in Hollywood feel at seeing people from our communities ignored, even for roles such as Fidel Castro. There really wasn’t one Cuban American in Hollywood who could play Castro? Just like there wasn’t one who could play Desi Arnaz as well as Spaniard Javier Bardem?
It’s insulting, and Leguizamo expressed it well in three separate Instagram posts, which included a long list of white actors playing Latine characters, as well as two videos explaining the issue of Latine exclusion in Hollywood – and, after John Martinez’s O’Felan deliberate misunderstanding of the issue – an apparently needed explanation of why Portuguese and Spaniards are not Latinos.
Honestly, it’s probably not nearly as deep as Mr. Martinez O’Felan wants to make it look. What’s more likely, that they really took into account Fidel Castro’s roots and looked for an actor of Portuguese origin because they really believed Portuguese people are Latines? Or that they just …picked any white actor who looked a little bit like Fidel, called it a day, and came up with this excuse to try to stave off criticism? That’s the kind of rhetorical question that doesn’t really need an answer, particularly considering the way of things in Hollywood.
But no, James Franco shouldn’t really be playing Fidel Castro. In fact, considering his history of sexual misconduct he probably shouldn’t be playing anyone ever again. But then again, Hollywood is as quick to dismiss allegations of sexual misconduct against powerful white men as they are to dismiss Latine actors like Leguizamo who are just asking for common sense casting. Is anyone really surprised?