James Franco‘s upcoming role as Fidel Castro is causing quite a stir.
Alina of Cuba—which is based on Cuban-exile-turned-social-advocate Alina Fernandez, who learns at 10 years old that she is Castro’s daughter—producer John Martinez O’Felan is responding to critical commentary about casting Franco, 44, in the indie film—namely those from actor John Leguizamo.
Following the announcement of Franco as the Cuban historical figure, Leguizamo, 58, took to Instagram to voice his outrage over a non-Latino actor playing the role.
“How is this still going on? How is Hollywood excluding us but stealing our narratives as well? No more appropriation Hollywood and streamers!” the Columbian American actor wrote on Friday, August 5, while calling for his followers to “boycott” the movie.
“This F’d Up!” he continued. “Plus seriously difficult story to tell without aggrandizement which would b wrong! I don’t got a probe with Franco but he ain’t Latino!”
Following the post, the film’s producer blasted Leguizamo, telling The Hollywood Reporter his comments were 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 since the 90s and I’ve always admired him as a fellow underdog,” O’Felan told the outlet. “But his comments are culturally uneducated and a blind attack with zero substance related to this project.”
He continued, “The reality of the ignorance piece falls within his statement suggesting his personal view on being ‘Latino,’ because a land mass or living area does not determine a person’s blood history or genetics.”
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O’Felan also stated that Leguizamo should “move past himself” and “also understand that it’s kind of disappointing to see our work getting attacked by someone who claims to be a leader of the Latin community.”
Nevertheless, plenty of Leguizamo’s fans agreed that Franco’s casting is appropriation, with one Instagram follower calling the comments “Straight facts,” while another person chimed in, “Makes no sense when so many good Latino actors out there.”
However, even more than the concerns of appropriation, the comments section of users pointing out the elephant in the room: that Franco’s alleged history of sexual misconduct—which was exposed in a 2018 LA Times report—doesn’t seem to be a topic of discussion regarding his new role.
In 2021, Franco settled a sexual misconduct argument filed by two of his former acting students, prompting some people on social media to question, “Why is James Franco still getting ANY roles?”
“So we’re just going to act like he never sexually assaulted anyone?? ……. Got it,” another person wrote.
Franco’s lawyers have denied the sexual assault misconduct, although the actor previously admitted to sleeping with students, per The Hollywood Reporter.