James Franco has been cast so much off-screen in recent years, but now the Golden Globe winner is stepping into the role of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Thursday, Deadline reported that Franco would play the highly controversial character in Miguel Bardem’s “Alina de Cuba” film. The film will center on the life of Alina Fernandez (Ana Villafañe), who was Castro’s daughter with Cuban socialite Natalia “Naty” Revuelta (Mía Maestro) and a critic of her father’s government.
The casting comes a month after Franco’s arrival a role in Bille August’s next post-WWII film “Me, You,” her first public role announcement since a $2.2 million settlement proposal was reached between Franco and two of her former students for resolve complaints of sexual exploitation and fraud in 2021.
Currently, neither film has a release date.
The roles are something of a comeback 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 not of Cuban or Latino descent.
In 2018, five women accused of Franco inappropriate behavior or sexual exploitation. Four of the women were his students at the film school he founded and the fifth called him 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 the plastic protectors covering the other actors’ vaginas while simulating oral sex on them.
“I think there was an abuse of power, and there was a culture of exploitation of non-famous women, and a culture of replaceable women,” Tither-Kaplan told The Times in 2018.
Two other student actresses also recalled negative experiences on set, saying Franco became angry when no woman on set would agree to be topless.
“He just took advantage of our eagerness to work and be part of something bigger,” said Natalie Chmiel, a former student of the actor. “We were all these up-and-coming actors who had so much hope.”
In an interview with Jess Cagle on SiriusXM in December 2021, “The Disaster Artist” admitted actor he “slept with students” in his film classes.
“Of course I knew…that’s probably not a cool thing,” Franco said. “I guess it depends on my criteria, [which] was like, ‘If it’s consensual, I think it’s cool. We’re all adults, so…’”
John Martinez O’Felan, one of the producers of “Alina de Cuba”, shed light on the casting decision in a recent statement to Deadline.
“Finding and convincing James Franco to play Castro was a fun and challenging process and was the collaborative work of the universe, as our director’s original order was to find an actor who physically resembles the real Castro to build from. de, along to find someone that Alina Fernandez would highly approve of.
Martinez O’Felan also spoke about the decision to go with Franco despite his lack of Latino background.
“[W]We used Fidel Castro’s ancient Galician heraldry as a focal compass, then combed through all the ranks of Latin-rooted actors in Hollywood to find someone with a similar facial structure,” the producer said in the communicated.
“Running an extensive search of our hopes through the eye of Spanish and Portuguese genealogy that the Galicians held, we found that James, by far, had the closest facial resemblance to any major players in our industry, which means the focus would be on building his character accent and we would have a stunning on-screen match to intrigue audiences and bring the story to life with true visual integrity.
“How is it still going? How does Hollywood exclude us but also steal our stories? No more Hollywood and streamer appropriation!” wrote the American actor of Colombian origin. “Boycott! This F’d up! Moreover, a seriously difficult story to tell without enlargement, which would be wrong! I don’t have a problem with Franco but he’s not a Latino!
Others on Twitter expressed similar sentiments.
“I’m auditioning for another generic Latin American drug dealer and James Franco is a dead ass playing Fidel Castro,” tweeted @iamJeffTorres. “Latinos get dirty here and everywhere. Shit lol.
“Gordita Chronicles (with a Latina family has been canceled), Batgirl (with a Latina has been canceled), but James Franco is set to play Fidel Castro in a new movie,” wrote @MrRafaelAgustin.
“I’m so confused by the lack of respect the industry continues to give Latin artists,” tweeted @RuizaJenni. “Now James Franco has been chosen for Fidel Castro. Fidel Castro, everyone.
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