Alina Of Cuba producer hits back at John Leguizamo’s criticism of James Franco playing Fidel Castro

Alina Of Cuba producer hits back at John Leguizamo’s criticism of James Franco casting as Fidel Castro: ‘His comments are culturally uneducated and a blind attack with zero substance’

The Alina Of Cuba producer John Martinez O’Felan is hitting back at John Leguizamo’s criticism of the casting of James Franco as former Cuban President Fidel Castro, calling them ‘culturally uneducated.’

The film is based on the true-life story of Alina Fernandez, played by Ana Villafañe, a Cuban exile turned social advocate who learns she is Castro’s daughter at age 10, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Franco is set to star opposite Mía Maestro, who plays Natalia ‘Naty’ Revuelta, a Cuban-born socialite who becomes romantically involved with Castro.

Casting controversy: John Leguizamo criticized the casting of James Franco as Fidel Castro because he doesn't have any Latino roots; seen in 2019

Casting controversy: The Alina Of Cuba producer maintains Franco's casting came after an extensive search to find the best possible physical fit to play Castro; seen in June

Casting controversy: The lead creative producer for Alina Of Cuba, John Martinez O’Felan, hit back at John Leguizamo’s criticism of Franco being hired to play Fidel Castro, calling them ‘culturally uneducated’

Leguizamo, a Colombian American actor, took to Instagram on Friday and fiercely condemned the choice for director Miguel Bardem’s new film, calling it yet another example of cultural appropriation, considering Franco doesn’t have Latin roots. 

‘How is this still going on? How is Hollywood excluding us but stealing our narratives as well?’ said Leguizamo, who has long been an advocate for the inclusion of Latin actors and their stories to be told on screen.

He continued, ‘No more appropriation Hollywood and streamers! Boycott! This F’d up! Plus seriously difficult story to tell without aggrandizement, which would be wrong! I don’t got a [problem] with Franco but he ain’t Latino!’ 

While prefacing he admires Leguizamo, producer John Martinez O’Felan hit back at his comments about Franco being hired to play a Latino.

His take: Leguizamo, 62, accused the team behind Alina Of Cuba of 'excluding' Latino's while 'stealing our narrative' and then called on people to boycott the biopic

His take: Leguizamo, 62, accused the team behind Alina Of Cuba of ‘excluding’ Latino’s while ‘stealing our narrative’ and then called on people to boycott the biopic 

‘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. But his comments are culturally uneducated and a blind attack with zero substance related to this project,’ he said.

‘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,’ O’Felan continued. 

O’Felan went on to call Leguizamo’s note is ‘a great talking point because they represent the same confusion and identity crisis in Hollywood right now within the Hispanic community in America who are arguing that we should only identify as Latin, which is mostly because of the falsehoods being spread by the actors who are supposed to be representing us, but instead create division amongst their own people.’

Fighting back: While offering his admiration for Leguizamo in response, producer John Martinez O'Felan went on to call his comments 'culturally uneducated and a blind attack with zero substance related to this project,' in an interview with THR; seen in March in Hollywood

Fighting back: While offering his admiration for Leguizamo in response, producer John Martinez O’Felan went on to call his comments ‘culturally uneducated and a blind attack with zero substance related to this project,’ in an interview with THR; seen in March in Hollywood

According to Collider, Franco’s casting came after an extensive search to find the best possible physical fit to play Castro among the best actors in the industry, and was directly approved by Fernandez.

Franco is of Portuguese and Swedish descent on his father’s side, and Russian Jewish descent on his mother’s side. 

‘Finding and convincing James Franco to play Castro, was a fun and challenging process and has been the collaborative work of the universe, because our director’s original order was to find an actor who holds a close physical resemblance to the real Castro to build from, along with finding someone Alina Fernandez would strongly endorse,’ O’Felan explained.

He went on to reveal that they used ‘Fidel Castro’s ancient Galician heraldry’ as their focal compass, and then combed through the long list of actors with Latin roots in Hollywood to find someone with a similar facial structure.

‘In executing a close search into our hopefuls through the eye of Spanish and Portuguese genealogy which the Galicians held, we found that James, by far, had the closest facial likeness of our Industry’s leading actors,’ the film’s lead creative producer revealed.

The producer went on to reveal that they used 'Fidel Castro's ancient Galician heraldry' as their focal compass; Castro pictured in the 1960s

Casting search: Franco is of Portuguese and Swedish descent on his father¿s side, and Russian Jewish descent on his mother's side; seen in June

Casting search: Franco’s casting came after an extensive search to find the best possible physical fit to play Castro among the best actors in the industry, and was directly approved by Alina Fernandez, the real-life woman for which the film is based upon for, O’Felan added

In conclusion, the producer made a point of singling out that movie doesn’t focus on Franco’s character. 

‘I think he should move past himself and also acknowledge that this story is about a Latin female immigrant living in America who is of historical importance, led by a Latin woman and I’m just an underdog who is making it, so he should 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,’ O’Felan added.

Set to be directed by Miguel Bardem and based on a script written by Jose Rivera and Nilo Cruz, the cast also includes Alanna de la Rosa, Maria Cecilia Botero, Harding Junior, Sian Chiong and Rafael Ernesto Hernandez.

Filming for Alina Of Cuba is slated to begin on August 15.

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