George Lopez, Johnny Arreaga, non-Latino actors play Latino roles, Seven Days in Utopia

It’s not Utopia

Why is it that casting directors, producers and directors still have non-Latino actors play Latino roles in movies? You’d think that the days of Marlon Brando playing Zapata or Natalie Wood as Maria were over. You’d think we made progress since the era of films began in the 1920’s. And we have made some progress, in film, but whenever I see a non-Latino actor play a Latino character, I have to scratch my head and ask why.

Why, in 2011?

Now this movie, Seven Days in Utopia, looks like an interesting and unique subject for a film. When I first heard about the story of Johnny Arreaga, golf player extraordinaire, I was immediately interested. The book, Golf’s Sacred Journey, by David Cook, highlights Mr. Arreaga’s talent as a golf player, head coach of Baylor University’s Golf Team and golf director. Mr. Arreaga becomes Mr. Cook’s personal teaching pro and mentor. It’s also a story (the book) about life lessons, Mr. Cook’s philosophy, and Christian principles. However, in the movie Mr. Arreaga is now called Mr. Crawford.

But again, my question is not about the story, it’s about the choice for the Latino role and the change from a real life Latino pro golfer to a fictional Mr. Crawford. Robert Duvall, Academy Award actor, Boo from To Kill a Mockingbird and Lt. Kilgore from Apocalypse plays Mr. Arreaga, the golf pro. He’s a great actor, no doubt, but that’s still not the issue.

I understand that Mr. Cook’s corporation funds Utopia Films, so it’s not like he had no choice of actors or choice to use Mr. Arreaga’s real name in the film. With so few Latino stories on film, don’t you think it would be important to highlight the achievements of a Latino athlete, such as Mr. Arreaga.  I understand Mr. Arreaga’s children are golfers too. I wonder what they had to say about the book and movie.
With so many talented golf players (Chi Chi Rodriguez, Lee Trevino, Nancy Lopez, Robert Gamez, Lorena Ochoa, and others), why would Mr. Cook chose to make one of the lead roles as a Anglo and not as a Latino, as Mr. Arreaga is?

There are not many over 50 year old Latino actors, but if makeup can make Brad Pitt an old man (TCCofBB) then I’m sure Antonio Banderas, Jimmy Smits, Esai Morales, Ruben Blades, Andy Garcia, or Demián Bichir (A Better Life, Ché) could have filled the bill for the role of Mr. Arreaga. Hey, I would have no problem if George Lopez played the role; at least he plays a pretty good game of golf. But it seems like he’s had problems being accepted by the golf community.

Answering the question isn’t going to change anything but maybe the question generates answers in the form of making more films by Latinos highlighting worthwhile Latino stories. I hope someone hears me before we see another film about another Latino with an non-Latino actor.