The film is based on the real life of Alina Fernandez (Ana Villafañe), a Cuban exile who learned aged 10 that she is Castro’s daughter. Mía Maestro has been cast as Natalia “Naty” Revuelta, a socialite he had an affair with.
The news of Franco’s casting was met with outrage, with many criticising the casting of a white actor in a Cuban role.
On Friday (5 August), Leguizamo shared his own frustrations on Instagram.
“How is this still going on?” the Romeo + Juliet star wrote. “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 aggrandisement which would b wrong!”
Leguizamo added: “I don’t got a prob with Franco but he ain’t Latino!”
Leguizamo later clarified his comments in a video posted to social media, where he spoke at the length about the discrimination faced by Latinx actors.
On Twitter, many social media users shared their frustration at the limited roles available to Latinx performers.
Jeff Toores also voiced his anger at the casting news, writing: “I’m auditioning for another generic Latin-American drug dealer and James Franco is dead ass playing Fidel Castro. Latinos gettin’ done dirty af out here and everywhere. Damn lol.”
However, Alina of Cuba’s producer John Martinez O’Felan disputed Leguizamo’s claims, calling them 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. But his comments are culturally uneducated and a blind attack with zero substance related to this project,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
“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.”
The film will mark one of Franco’s first major projects since he was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women in 2018.
Five women, including four of his former pupils, came forward in January 2018 with allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour by the 43-year-old. At the time, Franco said the allegations were “not accurate” but that he did not want to “shut down” people who “did not have a voice”.
Last year, he settled a lawsuit filed by two of his former students. In an interview, he described being “completely blind to power dynamics” while admitting to having sex with his acting students.