Leguizamo–who starred in hit projects like Moulin Rouge! and When They See Us and won an Emmy for his stand-up special, John Leguizamo: Freak–spoke out against the casting on Instagram when the news broke.
"I don’t got a prob with Franco but he ain’t Latino!," he wrote in part.
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After criticism from some fans about his comments, the actor shared a second post–this time a video that offered to examine and explain his previous statements.
In the video, Leguizamo first clarified that he has no problem with Franco, who is reportedly of Portuguese, Swedish, and Russian descent.
The 62-year-old actor spoke about how this is apart of a larger issue, and described the problematic history of white actors portraying Latin characters in film.
"I grew up in an era where Latin people couldn’t play Latin people on film. Where Charlton Heston played a Mexican, where Eli Wallach played Mexican, where [Al] Pacino played Cuban and Puerto Rican, where Ben Affleck even in Argo played a Latin guy," he said.
Leguizamo further described this era of Hollywood as one in which, "they tell you to change your name, stay out of the sun, only white Latinos, or white-passing Latinos, would get jobs, and they weren’t even the main leads, because every time you ask for a main lead, they go, ‘but there’s no Latin actor who can carry that movie.’"
Many Latino or Hispanic actors have historically changed their names to get better opportunities, with Martin Sheen saying in a recent interview that he did just that at the beginning of his career, but that the choice to change his name is "one of [his] regrets."
Leguizamo referenced this in the video, saying, "Why can’t Bruno Mars be Mr. Hernandez, or Oscar Isaac, these days, be Oscar Isaac Hernández? Because they can’t."
The actor strongly stated his final opinion on the matter, "Appropriating our stories, no more of that. I’m done with that."
Many people in the comments voiced their agreement and support, also bringing up Franco's sexual misconduct allegations, which the Los Angeles Times reported on in 2018, and how that should be a part of the conversation as well.
Shortly after posting the video, Leguizamo posted again with a list of white actors portraying Latin characters and performing brownface, which is when someone uses makeup to play the role of people of color, normally those of South Asian or Latin American descent.
In response to Leguizamo's statement, Castro's daughter, Alina Fernández, told Deadline she's more thank okay with it.
"James Franco has an obvious physical resemblance with Fidel Castro, besides his skills and charisma...I find the selection of the cast amazing," Fernández said.
The upcoming film's producer, John Martinez O’Felan, also spoke out in support of the casting. O’Felan called Leguizamo's comments a "blind attack."
And added: "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."