Dream Casting the Celia Cruz Biopic. Who Would Play 'La Reina de la Salsa'?

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In one of the most concerning unsolved mysteries of 2014, the Celia Cruz biopic slated for production in 2013 has fallen completely off the radar. After formally announcing production on the 10th anniversary of La Reina’s passing last July, the promising project has seemingly disappeared into the ether, with the all-powerful, all-knowing Google search engine yielding little in the way of information.

We here at Remezcla know that making movies ain’t easy, and when dealing with a larger-than-life figure like Celia you’d better do it right, or not do it at all. For that reason, we’ve decided to lend a hand to the embattled production and publish our official dream casting. Hopefully this will help get things back on track.

CELIA CRUZ played by Zoe Saldaña

‘La Reina de la Salsa’ had one of the longest and most enviable careers in modern entertainment, kicking off in the 1940s and 50s with La Sonora Matancera and spending midlife as resident diva for the Fania All Stars crew before moving into a more hip hop-inflected Latin pop in her twilight years. To keep things simple we’ve focused our casting on her earlier years and gone with Afro-Latina ‘it’ girl Zoe Saldaña for what would be, undoubtedly, the role of a lifetime.

PEDRO KNIGHT played by Elvis Nolasco

The gentle, smiling face in the background of nearly every candid shot of La Reina, Pedro Knight was a dedicated husband, band member and lifetime manager for Celia Cruz. While Afro-Latino actors are still few and far between, we’re confident Elvis Nolasco (Oldboy, Clockers) is the right man for the job.

TITO PUENTE played by John Leguizamo

‘El Rey’ to Celia’s ‘La Reina’, Tito Puente recorded a whopping eight albums with his Cubana counterpart throughout 1960s. Known for his outsized personality and electrifying energy, who could be better for job than John Leguizamo? I mean, really.

LARRY HARLOW played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

‘El Judío Maravilloso’, Larry Harlow was New York Jewry’s gift to Latin culture. And what a gift it was. The piano whiz who gave us some of the greatest albums in the Fania catalogue also toured for a several years with Ms. Cruz, accompanying her at the venerable Carnegie Hall in the early 70s. Now, after a lifetime banging out montunos, Harlow’s actually physically morphed into a Puerto Rican – further proof that Latinidad is more about heart than birthright. Are you up to the task, Mr. Gordon-Levitt?

JOHNNY PACHECO played by Victor Rasuk

The man with the silver mane and mastermind behind the Fania Records empire, Johnny Pacheco was no lightweight. His 1974 record with Celia, aptly titled Celia y Johnny, was a milestone in her career and introduced her to a whole new generation of fans. Without a doubt his sequined-boots won’t be easy to fill, but after eye-catching performances in Raising Victor Vargas and the short-lived How to Make it in America, we’re sure Victor’s got the chops. From there, it would be the make-up and hair department’s Oscar-worthy task to reproduce Pacheco’s glorious coiffure and epic mustache. Go get it!

THE RIVAL as played by J. Lo

Okay, this one isn’t exactly based in fact, but you’ve gotta add a little intrigue into the mix to keep things interesting. And what’s a queen without a rival to the throne? Let’s call her María del Carmen – an aging diva whose star has faded and is dead set on taking down a naive and uncorrupted Celia Cruz. Just let old Jenny from the block loose and it’ll be movie magic.

BONUS: Luis Guzmán

No need to think it through. It would just be better with Luis.