Leguizamo revealed that he almost turned down the role because he was tired of being cast as a drug dealer early in his career.
John Leguizamo has been one of Hollywood’s most outspoken advocates for better Spanish-language representation, speaking out on everything from James Franco’s portrayal of Fidel Castro to the lack of color-blind casting in “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” in recent years. . He consistently recalls the racist typecasting he was often subjected to early in his career – and laments that not much has changed in the film industry.
In an interview GQLeguizamo revealed that he was so tired of auditioning to play drug dealers early in his career that he considered passing on his now iconic role as Benny Blanco in Brian De Palma’s Carlito’s Journey.
“I’m a Latino guy and I didn’t want to play another drug dealer. I was pretty sick of that routine,” Leguizamo said. “So I turned him down three times.”
He continued to resist the role, but learned that Hollywood’s other rising Spanish star, Benicio Del Toro, was also in the running. After learning that Del Toro was interested, Leguizamo said he decided to do the film after realizing it was a good career move.
“The producers said, ‘Look, this is the last time I’m going to see you. We’re going to Benicio’s,” he said. “Okay, I’ll take it!”
Leguizamo’s thoughts on not wanting to play drug dealers echo similar comments he made to IndieWire recently. The actor explained that his limited range of roles as a young actor shaped his views on the importance of representation in films.
“Even when I was a kid going to college, I said, ‘Wait a minute. How come we all pay the same tuition, I get A’s and they don’t, and I get called five times a day to play a drug dealer because I’m Latino? It was like Jim Crow,” he said. “The casting breakdown each day with the roles available was: ‘White romantic lead, white doctor’ and so on. They wouldn’t see you. When I started seeing the data, my mind was blown. I said, “Wait a minute, we’re the largest ethnic group in America, the oldest ethnic group in America, and we don’t have representation?” I recently saw that we account for 30 percent of the US revenue, 4 percent of the streams, and still less than two percent of the faces in front of the camera.”
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