Following news that Franco would play the Cuban leader in Alina of Cuba, the Latinx community condemned the casting as another example of excluding Latinx actors from lead Hollywood roles.
Leguizamo’s comments made headlines, after he wrote on Instagram: “I don’t got a prob with Franco but he ain’t Latino!”
In a follow-up video, he said: “I grew up in an era where Latin people couldn’t play Latin people on film. Where Charlton Heston played a Mexican, where Eli Wallach played Mexican, where Pacino played Cuban and Puerto Rican. Where Ben Affleck, even, in Argo, played a Latin guy and Marisa Tomei played Latin women.
“We couldn’t play our own roles. There was brown face, people painting themselves to look Latin in West Side Story, Eli Wallach in The Magnificent Seven. That’s the era I grew up in. The era where they tell you to change your names, stay out of the sun, that only white-passing Latinos would get jobs.”
Castro’s daughter, Alina Fernández, has now approved of Franco’s casting, telling Deadline: “James Franco has an obvious physical resemblance with Fidel Castro, besides his skills and charisma. I find the selection of the cast amazing.”
She addressed Leguizamo’s criticism by adding: “The project is almost entirely Latino, both in front and behind the camera.”
Fernández continued: “The filmmakers worked a lot and I can’t be more grateful to them for their overall inclusive selection. To me, the most important thing about this movie is that the conversation about Cuba is alive.
“Personally, the experience is so far too unexpected but more than anything, humbling.”
Miguel Bardem will direct Alina of Cuba , which will also star Ana Villafañe and Mía Maestro. They will play Fernández and her mother Natalia Revuelta, respectively.