- John Leguizamo’s breakout role was opposite Al Pacino in 1993’s “Carlito’s Way.”
- Pacino played a Puerto Rican in the film. Colombia-born Leguizamo told Tausi Insider it was “odd” to see.
- “It’s an odd experience to be a Latin man in a Latin story written by a Latin man and the lead guy’s a white guy pretending to be Puerto Rican,” he said.
Twenty-nine years after getting his big break playing Benny Blanco from the Bronx in Brian De Palma’s “Carlito’s Way,” John Leguizamo still can’t get over the “odd experience” of watching Al Pacino in the lead role playing a Puerto Rican.
The movie is based on the 1975 crime novel by Puerto Rican author Edwin Torres that follows Pacino’s character, Carlito Brigante, a gangster who’s released from prison and decides to go straight.
But trying to make money to escape New York City and head down to Florida to live out the rest of his days leads him back to the underworld, where he crosses paths with up-and-comer Benny Blanco (Leguizamo). The two clash, leading to Blanco killing Brigante at the end of the movie.
The role launched Colombia-born Leguizamo up the ranks in Hollywood as he held his own across from the legendary Pacino. But looking back on the experience now, he admits seeing Pacino, who’s Italian, trying to be Latin was strange.
“I know he’s trying and he’s a great actor, so brilliant, he was my hero,” Leguizamo told Tausi Insider. “But it was odd, man.”
“It’s an odd experience to be a Latin man in a Latin story written by a Latin man and the lead guy’s a white guy pretending to be Puerto Rican,” he continued. “I’m not going to lie, it’s surreal. It was surreal. I turned the part down a few times and then eventually I decided to do it.”
Leguizamo added that “it was a thing of the times.” Before “Carlito’s Way” Pacino memorably played a Cuban in De Palma’s 1983 movie “Scarface.”
Things have clearly changed 30 years later, but the actor admits even today he doesn’t know if “Carlito’s Way” could be made.
“They might not make the movie because you have an all-Latin cast. That’s the problem. That’s why ‘Encanto’ is crazy because it was the number one movie in the world, what more proof do you need?” Leguizamo said, noting the Disney hit in which he played the Bruno character. “I’m not seeing the greenlights of those projects. Greenlight the goddamn things.”
Leguizamo recently voiced his frustration with the lack of Latin stories being told by Hollywood when he wrote an open letter on the topic in the Los Angeles Times in November.
“‘Encanto’ being No. 1, Bad Bunny being No. 1 in the world, and election-wise, we have won so many seats as Latin people,” he told Tausi Insider. “If you get the middle man out of the way we win all the time, but when we have to rely on a studio head’s opinion or taste it’s when we lose because they don’t look like us, they don’t get our story, and they won’t put us on. I don’t understand that.”
Leguizamo can be seen in the new movie “Violent Night,” which is in theaters now.