Jessica Chastain explains casting of Spanish star Penelope Cruz in Colombian role amid criticism

‘I understand that we are continuing to evolve’: Jessica Chastain explains casting of Spanish star Penelope Cruz in role as Colombian amid criticism of cultural misappropriation

  • Chastain, 43, defended decision to cast Spanish actress as Colombia native 
  • Variety suggested that ‘Hollywood has struck again’ with casting decision 
  • Chastain said Cruz agreed to bring star power to project amid limited resources 
  • Chastain said that Cruz had brought the issue up to her 

Jessica Chastain explained why she cast Spanish star Penelope Cruz in role as Colombian in her new film The 355 amid criticism of cultural misappropriation.

The two-time Academy Award nominee, 43, who is a producer on the film, issued a statement to Variety after she was criticized in a piece by the outlet for the casting decision.

‘Hollywood has struck again, further perpetuating the idea that all Spanish accents are created equal, and every Hispanic is a Latino,’ author Clayton Davis said in the the opinion piece.

Chastain said that Cruz had brought the issue up to her that 'it wouldn’t be right for her to play a character from Brazil, as the majority language is Portuguese.' She was snapped in LA earlier this year

The latest: Jessica Chastain, 43, explained why she cast Spanish star Penelope Cruz, 46, in role as Colombian in her new film The 355 amid criticism of cultural misappropriation 

Davis wrote that Cruz, 46, was ‘cast in a role that makes it seem clear that executives and agents put no effort into scouring the world to find a more appropriate choice, or to be even more daring, an actual Colombian actress to play Graciela.’

Davis pointed out a number of other Colombian stars who could have been cast instead, such as Sofia Vergara, Martina Garcia, Dascha Polanco and Paola Turbay.

The Molly’s Game star, who is producing the motion picture, explained that Cruz’s casting came as the result of her willingness to bring her star power to the project amid limited resources.

‘When I had the idea of making this film, we didn’t have a script or financing,’ Chastain said. ‘Penelope was incredibly helpful in this regard. After conversations with our consultant, I brought her the idea that she could play a fervent agent from Brazil.

Awareness: Cruz had brought the issue up to her that 'it wouldn’t be right for her to play a character from Brazil, as the majority language is Portuguese,' Chastain said

Awareness: Cruz had brought the issue up to her that ‘it wouldn’t be right for her to play a character from Brazil, as the majority language is Portuguese,’ Chastain said 

Adjustments: Chastain said she sought to make creative compromises to tailor the role to Cruz's background

Adjustments: Chastain said she sought to make creative compromises to tailor the role to Cruz’s background

Chastain said that Cruz had brought the issue up to her that ‘it wouldn’t be right for her to play a character from Brazil, as the majority language is Portuguese.’

Chastain said she sought to make creative compromises to tailor the role to Cruz’s background.

‘I realized that Colombia has a rich ethnic heritage, with approximately 80 percent of the population having European or mixed European heritage,’ she said. ‘We settled on a character who is a descendant from the colonization of Spain in the New World.’

She continued: ‘I understand that we are continuing to evolve how we think in terms of our cultural beliefs. When making this film, I wanted to move beyond nationalism and understand the international common thread that connects us all.

‘At the end of the day, it wasn’t important where the characters came from, but that they all come together to form an alliance beyond borders.’

The film is expected to be released January 15, 2021.

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