James Franco Controversy: A Look at The James Franco-Fidel Castro Casting Controversy

American actor and director James Edward Franco was born on April 19, 1978. An Academy Award nomination for Best Actor came his way for his performance in 127 Hours (2010).

In addition to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy (2002–2007), Franco’s filmography includes Milk (2008), Eat, Pray, Love (2010), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), Spring Breakers (2012), and Oz: The Great and Powerful (2013). (2013).

Eight films and one TV series feature his work with actor Seth Rogen; these include Pineapple Express (2008), This Is the End (2013), Sausage Party (2016), and The Disaster Artist (2017), for which he received a Golden Globe for Best Actor.

Early Life


On April 19, 1978, James Edward Franco entered the world in Palo Alto, California. Both of his brothers, Tom and Dave, have followed in his footsteps as actors. His high school experience began at Palo Alto High, where Franco eventually graduated in 1996.

He went on to declare English as his major at UCLA despite his parents’ objections but ultimately decided to leave after only one year to pursue acting instead. He dropped out of college to study acting with Robert Carnegie at the Playhouse West while also working at McDonald’s.

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James Franco Controversy


James Franco’s portrayal of Fidel Castro in the new film Alina of Cuba has sparked much debate. Natalia Revuelta, a Cuban socialite with whom Castro had an affair, will be played by Maestro in a biopic directed by Miguel Bardem. Production on the film, which stars Ana Villafane as Castro’s daughter Alina Fernandez, is set to begin in Colombia in August.

The Castros’ daughter Alina Revuelta and her work as a social activist after the family’s exile from Cuba is the subject of the documentary Alina of Cuba.

Alongside Franco, the cast includes Alanna de la Rosa, Harding Junior, Sian Chion, Rafael Ernesto, and Maria Botero, who played the almost villainous Abuela in Encanto.

According to the film’s executive producer, John Martinez O’Felan, who was quoted in Hola! as saying, “the movie seeks to be really inclusive by connecting actors and creatives from both multigenerational and recent Latin roots from the U.S., Latin America, and the world.”


However, the decision to cast a White American in the role of a Cuban historical figure has been met with widespread criticism, both from the general public and from other actors. Franco was cast, according to O’Felan, because of their same appearance and shared Latin heritage.

Through his father’s side of the family, Franco is a quarter Portuguese, yet he is not Latino. The controversy arises from the fact that it is often preferable to cast performers of the same ethnic background as the characters being portrayed as White Americans, especially in biopics.

The criticism of James Franco’s casting as Castro stems from the fact that numerous Latin American and Cuban actors were passed up for the part.

In light of the recent cancellation of two high-profile projects starring Latin actors, including Batgirl, the casting news serves as further evidence that Latin actors are not being given equal opportunities.

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How Actors Have Reacted to Franco’s Casting


Many Latino actors have taken to Twitter to express their displeasure with James Franco’s casting. Actor Jeff Torres said on Twitter that he is “auditioning for another generic Latin-American drug dealer” in contrast to James Franco’s role as a former president of Cuba.

John Leguizamo, among others, criticized Franco by asking, “How is this still going on?” (Variety) and pointing out that there is a long tradition of White performers portraying people of color on the screen.

Leguizamo, who played Luigi in the first Super Mario Bros. film, has used Instagram to highlight other instances in which White actors have played Latin parts and to call for a boycott until Hollywood stops discriminating against Latin actors while continuing to use their stories.

Finally, due to a sexual misconduct complaint filed against him in 2019, James Franco has not been seen in any films as of late.

However, he has lately been rumored to star in the post-World War II thriller Me, You. Many people are surprised by James Franco’s fast comeback to acting, and the lawsuit has contributed to the vitriol he’s received.

It remains to be seen if the uproar over Franco’s hiring as Castro will delay the filming of Alina of Cuba, especially in light of the growing demand for more roles for Latinx actors in Hollywood.

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Personal Life and Education

James Franco Controversy

Franco claims he is Jewish despite his nonreligious upbringing. In 2015, he had a rabbi officiate at the formal Bar Mitzvah ceremony he organized for himself. After meeting on the set of Whatever It Takes in 1999, he dated co-star Marla Sokoloff for the next five years.

When their relationship ended in 2011, he dated actress Ahna O’Reilly. Allegations of sexual assault have been made against him by a number of women, including actress Ally Sheedy, ex-girlfriend Violet Pansy, and former students and mentees of Franco’s acting classes.

After leaving UCLA in the late ’90s to pursue acting, James Franco eventually went back to school there in 2006 to earn a degree in English, specializing in creative writing. The novel he wrote for his honors thesis as an undergrad was edited by the novelist Mona Simpson, and he graduated in June 2008.

He then moved to New York City and enrolled in four different graduate programs: the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina for poetry, the MFA Program at Brooklyn College for fiction writing, and the MFA Program at Columbia University School of the Arts for writing.

In 2010, he walked away from Columbia with a Master of Fine Arts. Furthermore, he has completed coursework at the doctoral level. He studied at the Yale University English program and then went on to graduate from the Rhode Island School of Design. Franco’s alma institution, UCLA, produced print ads featuring him with the phrase, “Some A-Listers Actually Get A’s.”

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