James Franco Fidel Castro Casting Controversy Explained

Franco’s casting as Fidel Castro, former Cuban leader, in Alina of Cuba has sparked controversy, particularly among Latin-American actors.

There has been a lot of controversy over the decision to cast James Franco as Fidel Castro in the new movie Alina of Cuba. The biopic will be directed by Miguel Bardem with Mía Maestro to play Natalia Revuelta, a Cuban socialite that Castro had an affair with. Ana Villafañe will also star as Castro’s daughter, Alina Fernandez and the movie is expected to start production in August in Colombia.

Alina of Cuba focuses on Castro and Revuelta’s daughter, Alina, and her life as a social advocate after being exiled from Cuba. Franco will be starring alongside Alanna de la Rosa, Harding Junior, Sian Chion, Rafael Ernesto, and Maria Botero who starred in Encanto as the almost villainous Abuela. Lead creative producer, John Martinez O’Felan, has said the movie hopes to be “truly inclusive through uniting actors and creatives from both intergenerational and recent Latin roots from the US, Latin America, and the world” (via Hello!), hence the casting of actors from a mixture of heritages.


Related: You Were Never Lovelier Is A Hollywood Musical Featuring Fidel Castro

However, there has been a huge backlash to Franco’s casting from the public and actors alike because of the decision to choose a White American to play a Cuban historical figure. O’Felan claims Franco’s casting was due to their facial similarities and Latin roots. Franco has a quarter Portuguese ancestry through his father’s family, but he is not Latino. The controversy stems from sensitivity around White Americans being cast in non-White roles, especially biopic roles, over actors who are of the same heritage as the characters. In this case, the backlash against casting James Franco in the role of Castro is due to plenty of Latin-American or Cuban actors being ignored to play the role of the Cuban ex-President. The casting announcement comes on the heels of two major projects starring Latin actors being canceled, including Batgirlwhich only emphasizes how Latin actors are not getting the same opportunities.

How Actors Have Reacted To Franco’s Casting

james franco

Many Latin actors have been vocal about James Franco’s casting on Twitter. Actor Jeff Torres tweeted how he is “auditioning for another generic Latin-American drug dealer” (via twitter) while Franco is playing a Cuban ex-President. Among others, John Leguizamo slammed Franco as well, asking, “How is this still going on?” (via variety) and noting the long history of White actors playing non-White roles. Leguizamo, cast as Luigi in the original Super Mario Bros. movie, has been using his Instagram platform to point out many other times White actors played Latin roles and is calling for people to boycott until Hollywood stops excluding Latin actors while still using their narratives for movies.

Finally, James Franco has not been featured in movies recently due to a 2019 sexual misconduct argument, though he has recently been to star in post-WWII drama me, you as well. The lawsuit has added to the backlash against James Franco, as many people are shocked by his quick return to acting. Alina of Cuba sets to start filming soon and it is uncertain whether the controversy around Franco’s casting as Castro will cause issues with production, especially as people call for Latin actors to be better represented in Hollywood.

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