Fidel Castro's daughter Alina Fernández supports James Franco's casting as her father in the upcoming independent film, Alina of Cuba.
The anti-communist activist said "the project is almost entirely Latino, both in front and behind the camera" after Emmy winner John Leguizamo and other Latinx actors criticized Franco's casting, calling the inclusion appropriation amidst the Latinx community's continued exclusion from Hollywood.
"James Franco has an obvious physical resemblance with Fidel Castro, besides his skills and charisma," Fernández told Deadline. "I find the selection of the cast amazing." The film, based on the true life story of Fernández and her exile from Cuba as a staunch critic of the government and her father's rule, will also star Ana Villafañe as Fernández and Mía Maestro as her mother Natalia Revuelta, the socialite who had an impassioned affair with Castro.
Juanjo Martin/EPA/Shutterstock; Daniele Venturelli/Daniele Venturelli / Getty Fidel Castro's daughter Alina Fernández defends casting James Franco in biopic 'Alina of Cuba'
Alina of Cuba will be directed by Miguel Bardem with a script from award-winning playwrights Jose Rivera and Nilo Cruz. "The filmmakers worked a lot and I can't be more grateful to them for their overall inclusive selection," Fernández continued. "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."
Leguizamo spoke out against Franco's addition on social media Friday. "How is this still going on?" the actor asked. "How is Hollywood excluding us but stealing our narratives as well? No more appropriation Hollywood and streamers! Boycott! This F'd up! Plus seriously difficult story to tell without aggrandizement which would b wrong! I don't got a prob with Franco but he ain't Latino!"
"Latin exclusion in Hollywood is real! Don't get it twisted!" he added in another post. "Long long history of it! And appropriation of our stories even longer! Why can't Latinxers play Latin roles? Why can't we play lead roles?" Sol Rodriguez, Jeff Torres, and Ana Navarro also expressed their disappointment. In response, John Martinez O'Felan, a producer on the film, called Leguizamo's comments "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," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "But his comments are culturally uneducated and a blind attack with zero substance related to this project... 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."
Reps for the film and Franco didn't immediately respond to EW's request for comment Sunday.
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