13 Times White People Stole Latino Roles

Michelle Rodriguez recently came under fire for accusing minorities of stealing "white people's superheroes." The actress later issued an apology, expanded upon her comments, and asked minority writers to spend less time trying to turn a "white character into a black character of Latin character" and more time "develop[ing] their own mythology."

However, Rodriguez failed to acknowledge the systems at play that prevent many minority writers, directors and actors from succeeding in Hollywood. She also failed to acknowledge the fact that sometimes Latinos do create their own mythology or roles are written for Latino actors — and non-Latinos still get cast in the parts instead. 

Here are 13 times white actors "stole" Latino roles: 

MORE: Why America Ferrera takes Hollywood's lack of diversity "extremely personally."

This article was originally published in March 2015.


Charlie Hunnam, a British actor, has been slammed on social media for accepting the role of Edgar Valdez Villarreal, a drug lord nicknamed "La Barbie." The Mexican-American drug lord earned his nickname due to his blue eyes and blonde hair. Despite Villarreal's fair features, many still believe that the Latino drug lord should be played by a Latino actor.

The casting comes at a particularly tumultuous time in the industry. The all-white Academy Award nominees spurred the #OscarsSoWhite backlash, and prompted a number of Hollywood heavyweights, including Will Smith, to boycott the 2016 Academy Awards ceremony.


Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones has played Latina characters on a number of occassions, most notably in the screen adaptation of a Zorro. Although Shakira and Salma Hayek were both reportedly considered for the role of Elena Montero, Zeta-Jones ultimately played her in both Zorro and its sequel, The Mask of Zorro. 

The actress will also play Colombiana drug lord Griselda Blanco in the upcoming biopic The Godmother. 


In 1989, Cuban-American author Oscar Hijuelos wrote a pretty phenomenal piece of Latino "mythology" — The Mambo Kings Play Songs Of LoveThe novel even earned him a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Unfortunately, when filmmakers adapted the book into a movie, they cast non-Latino actor Armand Assante in one of the two main roles. Spanish actor Antonio Banderas scored the second lead part. 


Scarface, a classic of the mob film genre, follows the rise of Cuban drug kingpin named Tony Montana. Al Pacino, an Italian actor, scored the role of the troubled Latino gangster. 


We love Meryl Streep, but we can't help but question the decision to cast her in the on-screen adaptation of Isabel Allende's infamous novel, The House of the Spirits. Despite the novel being set in Chile, filmmakers chose to cast Streep, Jeremy IronsGlenn Close and Winona Ryder in the main roles. 


The 1993 film Alive tells harrowing true story of an Uruguayan rugby team who survive a plane crash in the Andes mountains. One of the survivors, a man named Nando Parrado, helped his team survive by climbing the Andes over a 10 day period to find help. Who did filmmakers decide to cast as this Latino hero? Ethan Hawke. 


In the 1996 comedy The Birdcage, non-Latino actor Hank Azaria portrayed a gay, Guatemalan housekeeper named Agador Spartacus. The role earned him a Screen Actors Guilde Award nomination. 


In the movie adaptation of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas' memoir Before Night Falls, Spanish actor Javier Bardem co-stars alongside Johnny DeppDepp played two Cuban characters: Lt. Victor, a military officer, and Bon Bon, a flamboyant drag queen. 


Drug lord Pablo Escobar certainly ranks amongst the most recognizable Latino figures of all time, howeer producers chose to cast New Zealand-born, Maori actor Cliff Curtis as the King of Cocaine in the 2001 drama, Blow


Eva Perón earned the devotion, love and respect of the Argentine people during her service as First Lady from 1946 until her tragic death in 1952. In 1996, after a 20-year production delay, Evita finally made it to the big screen — and Madonna (yes, Madonna) scored the role of the Latina icon.


In 1988, Italian-American actor John Turturro famously played Cuban-American Jesus Quintana in The Big Lebowski. Apparently, the actor wants to play Jesus in a spin-off focused on the Latino character. 


West Side Story, based on a book by Arthur Laurents, tells the tale of two rival street gangs: the Sharks, a Puerto Rican street, and the Jets, a white street gang. Filmmakers did cast Rita Moreno as boricua firecracker Anita in a role that ultimately earned her an Academy Award. However, we wish they had also cast a Latina actress as Maria, instead of Natalie Wood


Mexican-American Ritchie Valens (aka Richard Steven Valenzuela) is a forefather of the Chicano rock movement. In the movie La Bambafilmmakers chronicle the life, death and legacy of the Latino musician. However, they chose to cast non-Latino actor Lou Diamond Phillips in the role of the iconic Mexican rocker.