Zeta-Jones beats J.Lo to Latina role

Jennifer Lopez was beaten to the role of a Colombian drug cartel boss by Catherine Zeta-Jones in a forth coming film because she “doesn’t have the acting quality to pull it off”, its executive producer said.

Zeta-Jones, who was born in Swansea, found herself at the centre of a discrimination row when she was cast as gangster Griselda Blanco in The God-mother ahead of Lopez, a Hispanic actress. Speaking about the controversy, Bernard Koppes said: “Jennifer Lopez had a campaign going to get the role because she thought it could get her an Oscar.

“She lobbied that she was perfect for the role because this is a Latin woman … but she was told it’s too challenging, that she doesn’t have the acting quality to pull it off.” Defending the choice, he added: “She [Zeta-Jones] looks surprisingly Latino. She has been in Zorro films, which is a Latin look, and she has been in Traffic, where she was the wife of a drug lord. So this is not an entirely new sort of casting.”

The choice in 2014 of a non-Hispanic actress to play Blanco, who was known as the Cocaine Godmother, stirred com-plaints of “whitewashing” — a Hollywood term for racially biased casting. “Are there no Latin actresses?” tweeted Yol-onda Ross, a black actress. Koppes acknowledged that “a lot of people say it [the role] needs a Latin woman, so why is a [Welsh] actress involved? That is another challenge for her: she has to portray this woman so well that people say, “Fair enough, you have pulled this off.”

Blanco, 69, was murdered in Colombia in 2012 after cornering much of the cocaine market in southern Florida in the 1970s and 1980s. Zeta-Jones, 46, who is married to the actor Michael Douglas, won a best supporting actress Oscar in 2003 for the film Chicago. Representatives of Lopez did not respond to requests for comment.