Battlestar Galactica actor Edward James Olmos has spoken out about his attempts to make movies about his own culture and ethnicity over the years and has called out the diminishment of historical, heroic Latino roles in Hollywood with the actor specifically mentioning the 2012 thriller Argo, starring Ben Affleck.
In a recent interview, Edward James Olmos asked the interviewer if he could name one Medal of Honor-winning hero who's Latino that's been shown in a movie. When the interviewer failed to think of any, Olmos used Argo as a prime example of the issue.
"There's not one. And when they have made movies about Latinos, "our heroes," say like Tony Mendez in Argo?Ben Affleck played Tony Mendez. He should never have played Tony Mendez. He was the director and he should've either gotten Michael Pena, or Andy Garcia, or myself, Jimmy Smits, any one of a multitude of people that can handle those roles. He said, well, they wouldn't have made the movie if I wasn't playing the role. Bullshit. He was directing it, he wrote it."
"It won the best film of the year Academy Award, so what are you talking about? Tony Mendez was a Chicano, a Mexican American, born and raised in El Paso, Texas. Now, 99% of the people don't even know that. They have no idea that there was a Latino that did that, not even a little bit, and yet...because Tony, who hates being Chicano, which that's an even better storyline. He hates it. His father impregnated his mother. His mother was thrown out by her father, and his Anglo mother and him went off to live in Arizona and he never saw his father again, so he hated being Mexican. That's what I've heard through the grapevine and it's my understanding of who he is as a human being."
"I don't know him personally, but it stands to reason why didn't they make a point of saying Mexican American Tony Mendez. So just do one scene where somebody says hey, man, let's go get some tacos, Tony, and he's just looking at the guy and they start laughing. That's all you had to do. Then you realize, say, hey man, don't make fun of this kid because...you know. But they didn't, and you didn't even know that the guy was Latino, right?"
Based on true events, Argo chronicles the life-or-death covert operation to rescue six Americans, which unfolded behind the scenes of the Iran hostage crisis-the truth of which was unknown by the public for decades. On November 4, 1979, as the Iranian revolution reached its boiling point, militants stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage. But, in the midst of the chaos, six Americans manage to slip away and find refuge in the home of the Canadian ambassador. Knowing it is only a matter of time before the six are found out and likely killed, a CIA "exfiltration" specialist named Tony Mendez comes up with a risky plan to get them safely out of the country. A plan so incredible, it could only happen in the movies.
Directed, produced, and starring Ben Affleck, Argo was written by screenwriter Chris Terrio who adapted the screenplay from the 1999 book by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operative Tony Mendez. The movie also starred Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, and John Goodman in supporting roles.
Despite being played by Ben Affleck, in real life, Mendez was of Mexican descent, which Affleck is not. As such, Olmos has called out Affleck for playing a Mexican American in Argo, highlighting that because of that, most people likely do not even know that Mendez was of Mexican origin. The actor then divulges further details about Mendez's history and personal struggles with his ethnicity which, due to the casting of Affleck, were completely left out of the movie.
"Now you're probably figuring out for the first time, wow, I had no idea that he was a Mexican American, this is the story about a Mexican American hero, one of our greatest Mexican American heroes of the CIA and no one knows that we did that. Right now there's never been a Mexican American, or even the Latino, any Latino, Puerto Rican, Guatemala, Central American, South American born in the United States of America, American of Latino descent heritage that has won the Congressional Medal of Honor and a movie has been made about them."
"Now, there have been two movies that were made about the stories but they put Caucasian kids in there to play the roles so that there was never any correlation between that person being Latino. The industry has to start to put out images of stories told through the perspective of your lead character being a female or a male of minority cultural dynamic, whether it be Asian. Indigenous people need it badly. Asians need it badly. Their participation in this country is overwhelming."
This is not the first time that Olmos has criticized Affleck's role in Argo, having called the casting decision "a mistake" in the past. Whilst others shared his opinion, the real-life Tony Mendez said at the time that he was fine with being portrayed by Affleck, telling NBC Latino that he didn't think of himself as Hispanic.
The casting of Affleck is also far from the only criticism that was leveled at the movie, with many questioning the depiction of the Canadian government's role in the rescue, as well as several other historical inaccuracies.
Argo went on to be a huge critical and financial success, with the movie going on to receive a total of seven nominations at the 85th Academy Awards, winning three, for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.
Edward James Olmos can currently be seen playing Felipe Reyes on the FX series and [Sons of Anarchy} spin-off Mayans M.C.. Ben Affleck meanwhile will be seen once again under the cape and cowl of Batman in the upcoming Snyder Cut. This comes to us courtesy of Deadline.