Fidel Castro was a communist leader with an atrocious human rights record. He imprisoned public critics and political enemies while controlling nearly all forms of media from the outside world — creating a basic military state for the Cuban people, one devoid of freedom of expression and run on the foundation of fear.
None of that ever kept Hollywood from having a bubbly relationship with the man, with celebrities such as Oliver Stone and Danny Glover publicly fawning over the dictator. With Castro’s passing at age 90, it’s worth remembering Hollywood’s long love affair with the man.
Castro’s most ardent supporter was perhaps the always-controversial director Oliver Stone. Stone added the 2003 documentary “Commandante” to his filmography, in which he gave Castro a platform to tell his story from his perspective — with virtually no word from his critics. Stone called Castro “one of the world’s wisest men.” The film was scheduled to air on HBO but was pulled when Castro’s regime executed three ferry hijackers looking to leave for the United States and imprisoned over 70 political dissidents.
Stone later released another love letter to the dictator with the documentary, “Looking for Fidel.” The film acknowledged the treatment of political dissidents in Cuba, but never condemned it and allowed Castro to again use the screen as his personal platform to propagate.
Retired “Chinatown” actor Jack Nicholson also made a trip to Cuba in 1998, and though not as friendly with Castro as Stone, Nicholson did say of the dictator later to Variety, “He is a genius.” Ironically, a defected Cuban intelligence officer said a year later that Nicholson was one of the actors he was ordered to bug while in the country.
Other filmmakers such as Robert Redford and Kevin Costner travelled to the country to privately screen films for Castro. Grammy winner Harry Belafonte was a public supporter of the man as well, even convincing Castro and his minister of culture during a 1999 visit to allow rap to be made in the country.
In a 2012 interview with Roland Martin, Belafonte lightly condemned Castro, though he refused to acknowledge the failure of communism. “I don’t think communism in and of itself was what went wrong … Power corrupted them to the point where they became totalitarian,” Belafonte said of Castro and his long-standing regime.
About the man himself, Belafonte said, “I saw in him a lot of heroics” — and even compared him to Nelson Mandela.
Another not so surprising friend of the Cuban regime was documentary filmmaker Michael Moore. In his film “Sicko,” Moore said the Cuban health care system was better than America’s. He also deflected in a 2009 interview with Sean Hannity the murders committed by Castro and his government, saying, “What about the murder that has been done in our name?”
Castro’s Hollywood friends have thus far been silent on the dictator’s passing. None have commented to the press or been active on their social media pages.
However, critics of Castro have been in full celebration and have attempted to keep the media in check during coverage of the dictator’s passing.
Best-selling novelist and outspoken conservative Andrew Klavan tweeted, “Grammar for journalists covering Castro: In American English, the phrase, ‘He murdered millions,’ can’t be followed by the word ‘but…’”
“Hillary’s America” filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza shared a picture of Castro and commented, “A FAIR SHARE OF MISERY FOR ALL: Castro tries to preach socialism in hell only to discover that they already have it.”