As Hollywood Grapples With Diversity, Here Are A Few Examples Of Hollywood Whitewashing Latino Roles
Hollywood is doing their best to try to fix the diversity issue plaguing the entertainment industry. However, Latinos are the minority being the most left behind. When Latino roles do becomes available, Hollywood often casts a white non-Latino to play the role. Latinos are the most active moviegoers representing a large number of the movie going population. Latinos represent 24 percent of frequent moviegoers to be exact. Yet, we are securing fewer leading roles than ten years ago.
The problem is even higher reaching than just roles available. Less than five percent of directors and producers are Latino. When you find a Latino producer or director (i.e. Guillermo del Toro or Jennifer Lopez), the representation follows. In the meantime, prepare to feel a renewed sense of grief as you realize that the cult classics of your childhood, or even your favorite new Netflix heartthrob, have been robbing undiscovered Latino of their own acting careers.
Charlie Hunnam as Edgar Valdez Villarreal
Let’s not forget when Legendary Studios announced that British actor Charlie Hunnam would be playing Mexican-American drug lord Villarreal, a.k.a. “La Barbie.” Sure, La Barbie is a light skinned Latino, but he is still a Latino and Legendary can do better at understanding the meaning of ethnicity and cultural identity.
The movie has not been released yet.
Al Pacino as Tony Montana in “Scarface”
For those who haven’t seen the movie, “Scarface” is all about the Cuban migration into Miami and the mob and drug wars that made Miami what it is. Italian Al Pacino rose to fame after landing the role of Cuban drug kingpin Tony Montana. Who knows which Latino could have secured the most iconic mob film fame.
Noah Centineo as Jesus Foster in “The Fosters”
“The Fosters” is produced by Jennifer Lopez and chock full of Latino characters, but when Puerto Rican actor J.T. Austin quit the show, they replaced him with half Italian half German Noah Centineo.
Cierra Ramirez crushed it as his twin sister, Mariana, and she’ll be co-starring in the spinoff, “Good Trouble.”
Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer as Maria and Tony in “West Side Story”
“West Side Story” is a classic tale featuring the Sharks, a Puerto Rican street gang vs. the Jets, a white street gang of New York. While Rita Moreno earned an Academy Award for the boricua Anita role, they failed to cast Tony and Maria as Latino.
Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in “Argo”
Sorry, buddy, but growing a baby beard don’t make you a Mendez. Just when you started thinking that this is a Hollywood snafu of the past, you should know that this casting happened in 2012.
Cliff Curtis as Emilio Restrepo in “Colombiana”
Cliff Curtis is literally from New Zealand and openly non-Latino. Curtis is widely sought after for playing Latino roles, and it’s frankly the only ones he’s known for. He even played Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar in “Blow.” Everyone deserves work and that should be the same for actors of color.
Catherine Zeta Jones as Elena Montero in “Zorro”
While Shakira and Salma Hayek were both reportedly considered to play the part of Elena Montero, Zeta-Jones scored two leading roles in “Zorro” and it’s sequel. Plus, this isn’t the first time she’s played a Latina role.
Anthony Hopkins as El Zorro in The Mask of Zorro
We loved this movie as children and it pains me how we couldn’t have possibly known better how outrageous this looks to have El Zoro be a white man with a tiny gotee. For those of you who are wondering, Zorro is a Mexican character and therefore should have been played by a Mexican.
Will Ferrell as Armando in “Casa de mi Padre”
Too often, when white people are cast as Latino characters, it’s to make a mockery of the culture and of Latinos as a whole. The majority of the movie is in Spanish and yet, the screenplay was written in English by a white boy. When will Hollywood learn that whitewashing Latino culture just makes it worse, you ask?
Jack Black as Nacho in “Nacho Libre”
This whole movie is a total spoof of Mexican culture, which could have been funny if it was played by someone other than Jack Black. Someone please remake this true story of Fray Tormenta, a Mexican Catholic priest who had a secret, very famous career as a luchador, with a Mexican actor. We can have a good time laughing at a Mexican making fun of Mexican culture just as much, if not more so, than Jack Black.
John Turturro as Jesus Quintana in “The Big Lebowski”
Italian-American John Turturro’s unforgettable role as Cuban-American Jesus Quintana could have belonged to an actual Cuban American. Once again, Hollywood whitewashes everything.
Armand Assante in “Mambo Kings” (1992)
This Hollywood tradition has definitely improved over time but is overall unforgivable. in 1989, Cuban-American author Oscar Hijuelos wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning piece of Latino mythology called “The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.”
When Hollywood adapted the story into a movie, they gave one of the two main roles to a non-Latino, but at least Spanish actor Antonio Banderas got the second part, who is a little bit closer to Latino in that his country colonized Latin America.
Madonna as Evita
As much as we love you, Madonna, you could never fully capture what it was like to be Argentina’s First Lady Eva Perón. She was adored by Argentines of the 1940’s until her tragic death in 1952. Key qualifier to crush the role: be Latina.
Hank Azaria as Agador Spartacus in “The Birdcage”
Hank Azaria earned a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for his part as a gay Guatemalan housekeeper. Tbh, the role was perfection but having a Latino in the role would add to that authenticity.
Viggo Mortensen as Captain Alatriste in “Alatriste”
Based on a series of novels written by Arturo Pérez-Reverte, and even directed by Agustín Díaz Yanes, the leading role went to Danish-American Mortensen. To this date, it is the second most expensive Spanish-language film ever made in Spain.
Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens in “La Bamba”
If you’re Mexican, you know who Ritchie Valens is and you know he doesn’t look like this baby John Travolta. Valens created the Chicano rock movement but when Hollywood made the movie of his life, they failed to even cast a Latino to play the Mexican rocker. However, Phillips has played several Latino characters and always treats the roles with respect and that is something to be admired.
Jack Palance as Fidel Castro in “Che”
Jack Palance is Ukrainian-American and distinctly not Cuban. Maybe that’s why the film totally flopped? Just guessing over here.
Johnny Depp as Cuban in “Before Night Falls”
Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas’ memoir “Before Night Falls” is the heart-wrenching story of what it was like to be openly gay in Cuba under Communism, and be diagnosed with AIDS. Arenas committed suicide shortly after publishing his work.
Johnny Depp played his part.
Ethan Hawke as Nando Parrado in “Alive”
The fact that Ethan Hawke was cast to play a Latino would be funny if it didn’t tragically reinforce the white savior narrative we see too often. Nando Parrado was one of sixteen survivors of a Uruguayan airplane crash in the Andes mountains.
He was on his way to business school when he was traumatically forced to survive in the Andes for 72 days. His life was never the same, but he was certainly the hero that kept who he could alive.
Meryl Streep as Clara del Valle in “House of Spirits”
Oh, Meryl. If you were Chilean, we’d already have you sanctified, but you’re not. Neither was Glen Close or Winona Ryder when they were cast to play the roles based off Isabel Allende’s novel “La Casa de los Espíritus.”