‘Alina of Cuba’ Producer Responds to Criticism From John Leguizamo

  • “Alina of Cuba” producer John Martinez O’Felan responded to casting criticism from actor John Leguizamo.
  • Leguizamo called out James Franco’s casting as Fidel Castro in the movie on Instagram Friday.
  • In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, O’Felan said Leguizamo’s comments were “culturally uneducated.”

The producer of “Alina of Cuba” responded to John Leguizamo’s criticism over James Franco’s casting as Fidel Castro in the film, describing the actor’s comments as a “blind attack with zero substance.”

Leguizamo, a notable Colombian American actor, called out the movie and the entertainment industry Friday on Instagram. After sharing a screenshot of Deadline’s article announcing that Franco would play the late Cuban revolutionary leader, Leguizamo called for the film’s boycott in the caption. According to IMDb, “Alina of Cuba” is currently in pre-production.

A post shared by John Leguizamo (@johnleguizamo)

 

“How is this still going on? How is Hollywood excluding us but stealing our narratives as well? No more appropriation Hollywood and streamers! Boycott! This F’d up!” Leguizamo wrote. “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!”

On Saturday, Leguizamo shared a video on Instagram, emphasizing that he has no issues with Franco and expanded on his experience as a Latino in the film industry.

“I grew up in an era when Latin people couldn’t play Latin people on film,” he said in the video, listing off actors and actresses who have played Latinx characters on screen. “Appropriating our stories? No more of that. I’m done with that.”

A post shared by John Leguizamo (@johnleguizamo)

 

In a lengthy statement to The Hollywood Reporter on Friday, the film’s producer John Martinez O’Felan said he respected Leguizamo but ultimately disagreed with his remarks.

“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 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.”

O’Felan noted that Leguizamo’s comments were a “great talking point” because they represent the identity crisis many Latinos and Hispanic people face in Hollywood and America.

The producer, also who called himself an “underdog,” said he was disappointed that Leguizamo chose to denounce the movie instead of focusing on the story it tells.

“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 …” he said.

Representatives for Franco, Leguizamo, and O’Felan did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Alina Fernandez in a black shirt

Alina Fernandez speaks about her father’s regime and introduces her book during a press conference on September 19, 1997 in Los Angeles, California.

TIZIANA SORGE/AFP via Getty Images


“Alina of Cuba” is based on the true story of Alina Fernandez, a Cuban activist who discovered she is Castro’s daughter at the age of 10, THR reports. According to The Washington Post, Fernandez, who was highly critical of her father’s rule, was granted political asylum in the United States in 1993.

Deadline reports that Fernandez will be played by Cuban American actress Ana Villafañe. Argentine actress Mía Maestro will play Natalia “Naty” Revuelta, Fernandez’s mother.

THR notes that Franco’s role as Castro is one of his first since the HBO show “The Deuce” and the 2019 movie “Artic Dogs.” In 2018, Franco was accused of sexual misconduct by several women online and in a Los Angeles Times article. Insider’s Kelly McLaughlin and Jason Guerrasio reported in 2021 that the actor agreed to pay over $2 million to settle a lawsuit alleging he pushed students to perform explicit sex scenes at his now-defunct acting school Studio 4.

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