James Franco, like many things, has been cast off-screen in recent years, but now the Golden Globe winner is slipping into the role of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Deadline reported Thursday that Franco would play the highly controversial character in Miguel Bardem’s film Alina of Cuba. The film will revolve around the life of Alina Fernandez (Ana Villafañe), who was Castro’s daughter to Cuban socialite Natalia “Naty” Revuelta (Mía Maestro) and a detractor of her father’s government.
The casting comes a month after Franco landed a role in Bille August’s upcoming post-war film Me, You, his first public role announcement since Franco and two of his former students reached a $2.2 million settlement over sexual exploitation claims and cheating in 2021.
Currently, none of the films have a release date.
The roles mark a comeback of sorts for the actor, who hasn’t appeared on screen since 2019.
His casting as Castro was controversial due to the actor’s allegations of sexual misconduct and the fact that Franco is neither of Cuban nor Hispanic descent.
In 2018, five women accused Franco of inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior. Four of the women were his students at the film school he founded and the fifth referred to him as a “mentor”.
One of the women, Sarah Tither-Kaplan, told The Times that in a nude orgy scene she filmed with Franco and several women, he removed plastic protectors covering other actors’ vaginas while he faked oral sex on them.
“I feel like there was an abuse of power and there was a culture of exploiting non-celebrity women and a culture where women are replaceable,” Tither-Kaplan told The Times in 2018.
Two other students also recalled negative experiences on set and said Franco got angry when no woman on a shoot agreed to go topless.
“He just took advantage of our eagerness to work and be a part of something bigger,” said Natalie Chmiel, a former student of the actor. “We were all these aspiring actors who were so hopeful.”
In an interview with Jess Cagle on SiriusXM in December 2021, The Disaster Artist actor admitted that he “slept with students” in his film classes.
“Of course I knew … that’s probably not a cool thing,” Franco said. “I think it just depends on my criteria, [which] was like, ‘If that’s consensual, I think it’s cool. We’re all grown ups, so…'”
John Martinez O’Felan, one of the producers of Alina of Cuba, recently shed light on the casting decision in a statement to Deadline.
“Finding and convincing James Franco to play Castro was a fun and challenging process and was the universe’s collective work because our director’s original brief was to find an actor who was physically very similar to the real Castro to build on that by finding someone that Alina Fernandez would strongly support.”
Martinez O’Felan also spoke about the decision to go with Franco despite his lack of Latino background.
“[W]Using Fidel Castro’s ancient Galician heraldry as our central compass, we then combed the entire ranks of Hollywood actors with Latino roots to find someone with a similar facial structure,” the producer said in the statement.
“In conducting a close search for our hopefuls through the eye of the Spanish and Portuguese genealogies possessed by the Galicians, we found that James had by far the greatest facial resemblance of any of the leading actors in our industry, meaning that the emphasis was on the Build would lay his character accent and we would have a stunning game on screen to engage audiences and bring the story to life with real visual integrity.”
People online had a lot to say about Franco’s new role, with actor John Leguizamo expressing his disbelief and frustration at the casting on Instagram Friday morning.
“How’s that going to continue? How does Hollywood exclude us, but also steal our narratives? Stop appropriating Hollywood and streamers!” wrote the Colombian-American actor. “Boycott! This F’d up! Plus seriously difficult story to tell without magnification, which would be wrong! I have no problem with Franco, but he’s not Latino!”
Others on Twitter expressed similar sentiments.
“I’m auditioning for another Latin American drug dealer and James Franco is playing Fidel Castro,” he tweeted @iamJeffTorres. “Latinos get dirty here and everywhere. Damn it, haha.”
“Gordita Chronicles (with a Latino family has been cancelled), Batgirl (with a Latina has been cancelled), but James Franco will play Fidel Castro in a new film,” he wrote @MrRafaelAgustin.
“I am so confused by the disrespect the industry continues to show Latin performers,” she tweeted @RuizaJenni. “Now James Franco has been cast as Fidel Castro. Fidel Castro, everyone.”
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2022-08-05/james-franco-cast-as-fidel-castro James Franco cast as Fidel Castro