del Toro to Star in Cuban Mafia-Themed Film “The Corporation”

Benicio del Toro is joining the Cuban mafia…

The 49-year-old Puerto Rican-American actor will star in The Corporation, which takes place over the decades between the 1950s and 1980s in Miami and New York.

Benicio del Toro

Based on T.J. English’s yet-to-be-published book The Corporation: An Epic Story of the Cuban American Underworld, del Toro will play Jose Miguel Battle Sr., who leads the eponymous and hugely powerful Cuban mafia. Born in Havana, Battle escaped to the U.S. following the rise of Fidel Castro. Alongside his team of fellow Cubans, Battle was trained by the CIA so that he could fight in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.

Despite his name, things didn’t go so well for Battle during the attempted invasion, as he was captured, which led to him being imprisoned inside a Cuban prison. Battle failed to find the light side during his incarceration, and, when he was released, he headed straight back to the U.S. where he set off to build a huge criminal empire alongside the same posse of men that he fought with. His empire revolved around drug trafficking, gambling, and, even murder, and made him one of the most powerful crime bosses in the US until his death in 2007.

The nonfiction book will be published in winter 2017 by William Morrow. It’s being called a Cuban version of The Godfather and American Gangster.

del Toro is coming off a sizzling performance in Sicario, and this is an opportunity to play another badass character.

Paramount Studios and Appian Way have the film rights.

A Young Cruz Celebrates Christmas with Cuban Orchestra Sonora Matancera in Just-Released Footage

It’s a special Christmas gift for Celia Cruz fans…

Festive footage has surfaced of the late Cuban salsa singer performing with the great Cuban orchestra Sonora Matancera.

Celia Cruz

The video was captured as part of the orchestra’s holiday album, which featured the young Cruz. It was recorded during Cuba’s last Christmas season before Fidel Castro claimed victory for the Revolution at the start of 1959.

In the vintage video, Cruz is spotted swinging her hips and flashing the bright smile that would make her famous as she sings a Spanish version of “Jingle Bells,” titled “Soy Feliz en Navidad.”

The 1958 album Navidades con la Sonora Matancera also included such Cuban-flavored Christmas numbers as “El Cha-Cha-Cha de la Navidad”  and “Rumba en Navidad.”

Two years later, Cruz would leave Cuba, never to return. The singer who became known as the Queen of Salsa died in 2003. She remains the world’s best known Cuban artist.

Christmas celebrations were officially banned in 1969, following Castro’s declaration that Cuba was an atheist country at the start of the Revolution. The holiday was reinstated in 1997, anticipating Pope John Paul II’s visit to the island. Some artists in Cuba have since recorded new Cuban Christmas music.

Starz Releases “Magic City” Season Two Trailer Featuring Morales

Starz hasn’t announced a premiere date for the second season of Magic City… But the network has released a trailer for the acclaimed mob drama, which will see Esai Morales’ return to television.

Magic City Gallery

Set in 1959 Miami shortly after the Cuban Revolution, Magic City tells the story of Ike Evans (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the owner of the Miramar Playa, Miami’s most glamorous hotel. Evans is forced to make an ill-fated deal with Miami mob boss Ben Diamond (Danny Huston) to ensure the success of his glitzy establishment.

Along with Morales – who will play Carlos Ruiz, a former rebel who once fought beside Fidel Castro but now works to free Cuba from the man he once considered a brother – Mitch Glazer’s drama will see another newcomer (James Caan) and the promise of more blood spilled.

The show’s other Latino stars include Andy Garcia‘s daughter Dominik Garcia-Lorido and Yul Vazquez.

Blanco Named 2013 Presidential Inauguration Poet

Richard Blanco is about to have a presidential experience…

The 44-year-old Cuban American writer has landed the role of a lifetime, 2013 presidential inauguration poet.

richard-blanco

Blanco, the 44-year-old son of Cuban exiles, will join the ranks of legends like Maya Angelou and Robert Frost.

“I’m beside myself, bestowed with this great honor, brimming over with excitement, awe, and gratitude,” Blanco said in a statement released by the inaugural committee.

“In many ways, this is the very stuff of the American Dream, which underlies so much of my work and my life’s story —America’s story, really. I am thrilled by the thought of coming together during this great occasion to celebrate our country and its people through the power of poetry.”

Blanco‘s selection as the poet of President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony marks several firsts. He’s the first Hispanic, gay and the youngest person to be chosen as the inaugural poet.

Blanco’s selection also comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that Vice President Joseph Biden had chosen Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina to serve on the high court, to swear him in at the inauguration.

Sotomayor is the first Hispanic to swear in a president or vice president.

“I’m honored that Richard Blanco will join me and Vice President Biden at our second Inaugural,” Obama said, according to the committee statement.

“His contributions to the fields of poetry and the arts have already paved a path forward for future generations of writers. Richard’s writing will be wonderfully fitting for an Inaugural that will celebrate the strength of the American people and our nation’s great diversity,” Obama added.

Blanco’s works explore his family’s exile from their native country and “the intersection of his cultural identities as a Cuban-American gay man,” the inaugural planners said.

Blanco was born in Spain to a mother who worked as a bank teller and a father who was a bookkeeper.

The New York Times said in a story about the poet that he was named after Richard Nixon, admired by Blanco’s father because of the Republican president’s strong opposition to Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Blanco moved to New York City with his parents when he was an infant, and then moved to Miami, where he was raised and educated. He worked as a consultant engineer while he pursued his poetry, and in 1999 joined the creative writing faculty at Central Connecticut State University until 2001. He later taught in various places, including American and Georgetown universities.

The inaugural committee noted that “Blanco’s career as an English-language Latino poet gained momentum when his first collection, City of a Hundred Fires, won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh.”

His second book of poetry, Directions to The Beach of the Dead, won the PEN American Center Beyond.

Banderas to Play Fidel Castro?

Antonio Banderas’ next role may transform him into one of the world’s most infamous former dictators…

The 51-year-old Spanish actor is in talks with producers to play Fidel Castro in Castro’s Daughter, a film about the life story of Alina Fernández, the love child between the Cuban dictator and Cuban socialite Naty Revuelta.

Antonio Banderas

Fernández tells Screen Daily that she’s excited about the possibility of having the Puss in Boots star sign on.

“I have been a huge fan of Antonio for years,” said the author. “[I] hope to see him play my father.”

Férnandez, who fled Cuba in 1993 and strongly disagrees with Castro’s regime, said she loves Banderas’ “phenomenal charisma.”

“He has the nerve to play the role perfectly,” she says.

The film—based on Fernández’s book, “Castro’s Daughter, An Exile’s Memoir of Cuba”—will shine a light on the father-daughter dynamic between Castro and Fernández.

“While the book is an amazing account of Alina’s life, we decided to take it to the next step,” Mankind Entertainment Producer John Torres told FOX News Latino.

“[We’ll] focus more on the more universal parts of the story that would appeal to audiences worldwide, which is her relationship with her father, and her coming of age.

Mankind Entertainment purchased the rights to the book and looks forward to showing “the former communist leader, and his rebel-spirited daughter,” according to Torres.

Castro’s Daughter—co-written by Bobby Moresco, known for his award winning screenplay for Crash—will be directed by Michael Radford.

Bichir’s Got “Spirit”…

Demián Bichir is reaping the recognition after starring in critically acclaimed film about an East L.A. illegal immigrant gardener.

Demian Bichir A Better Life Spirit Award Nomination

The 48-year-old Mexican actor has received a Spirit Award nomination in the Best Male Lead category for his star-making role in A Better Life, a poignant film about a father’s love and the lengths he’ll go to give his child the opportunities he never had.

Bichir—who depicted Fidel Castro in Steven Soderbergh’s Che and had a recurring role on Showtime’s Weeds—will face off against Hollywood heavyweights Ryan Gosling (Drive) and Woody Harrelson (Rampart), as well as Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
and Michael Shannon (Take Shelter).

But Bichir isn’t the only Hispanic actor getting some Spirit love…

Transgender actress Harmony Santana has received a Best Supporting Female nomination for playing Michael/Vanessa in the coming out drama Gun Hill Road, the same role that landed her a Gotham Award nomination for Breakthrough Actor. She’s up against Jessica Chastain (Take Shelter),
 Anjelica Huston (50/50),
Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants).

With five nods each, The Artist and Take Shelter lead this year’s nominations for the Spirit Awards, which honor films made outside of the Hollywood studio system.

Winners will be announced at the 27th annual Spirit Awards daytime ceremony on Saturday, February 25 that will be broadcast later in the evening on the IFC channel.

The Spirit Awards are produced by Film Independent—the non-profit arts organization that also puts on the Los Angeles Film Festival.