Hollywood declined to cast a Latino to play a Latino role, again.
The National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts called for a boycott of the action film “Olympus Has Fallen” after learning that the character of Vice President Charlie Rodriguez is played by non-Latino actor Phil Austin.
“If you think this is a bad precedent (ala ARGO); please repost and ask your friends not to spend their hard earned money on this film,” the organization posted to its Facebook wall Thursday. The organization repeated the call for a boycott Friday, writing "let's skip this piece of crap!"
The organization was alluding to Ben Affleck’s film “Argo,” in which he played the lead character Tony Mendez. Non-Latino Affleck took heat for casting himself as a Hispanic character, though it turns out that real-life Mendez doesn’t really identify as Latino.
This case seems a little different, since Phil Austin will be playing the role of a fictional character. If the producers aren’t interested in casting a Latino actor, why give him a Spanish surname?
Turns out Austin himself doesn’t know. Here’s what he told Nina Terrero over at NBC Latino:
“I read for several different parts in the film and then my agent called to tell me I had been cast for the vice president role… I never read for it and I did wonder if they would change the character’s name. I’m straight up Caucasian and there was no attempt to play any sort of ethnic spin.
Austin says later in the interview that he didn't think the move was a slight against Hispanics. We reached out to Millenium Films by phone and email for comment, but didn't immediately get a response.
The NHFA wasn’t the only one infuriated by the decision. Latino Rebels wrote:
We’re sure he is a fine actor. He looks like a younger brother of “Mad Men” star John Slattery, but he sure doesn’t scream “Charlie Rodriguez” to us… There really wasn’t any Latino actor who could have played this role? Anyone?
The National Foundation for the Arts made headlines last year over its battle to push the Kennedy Center to include more Latino honorees. The Kennedy Center agreed in January to review its process, after facing criticism for only picking two Hispanics for the coveted award over its 35-year history.