John Leguizamo clarifies comments criticising James Franco playing Fidel Castro: ‘Don’t get it twisted’

·2-min read

John Leguizamo has spoken out against the discrimination faced by Latin actors as he clarified his criticism of James Franco playing Fidel Castro.

Last week, it was reported that Franco would play the Cuban leader in independent filmcalled Alina of Cuba.

The casting drew criticism over the decision to have a white man play the role, with Ice Stage star Leguizamo calling it “F’d up”.

“I don’t got a prob with Franco but he ain’t Latino!” he wrote on social media.

On Saturday, Leguizamo posted a video to Instagram clarifying his comments.

Stressing again that he had “no problems with James Franco”, 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.”

Explaining how he’d heard the excuse that there was “no Latin actor who can carry” big films, Leguizamo continued: “Yeah, because you’re never given the opportunity to play anything that had worthy value… Appropriating our stories? No more of that. I’m done with that.

“I’ve been told so many times, ‘you can’t have two Latin people in a movie’. That’s what goes on in this industry.”

Captioning the video, Leguizamo wrote: “Latin exclusion in Hollywood is real! Don’t get it twisted! Long long history of it! And appropriation of our stories even longer!

Franco’s casting drew criticism (Getty Images for Housing Works)
Franco’s casting drew criticism (Getty Images for Housing Works)

“Why can’t Latinxers play Latin roles? Why can’t we play lead roles? Why can’t they flip white roles to Latin guys and gals?”

Responding to Leguizamo’s original comments, Alina of Cuba’s producer John Martinez O’Felan called them a “blind attack”.

“A guy like John Leguizamo has historically been looked up to by Hispanics as one of America’s earliest actors of Latin descent, and I’ve always admired him as a fellow underdog,” he said.

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