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Fidel Castro, the Cuban leader who died at 90 on Friday, was a subject of fascination for Hollywood. Figures from Oliver Stone to Harry Belafonte to Steven Spielberg travelled to Cuba to meet him over the years.
Here are some of the Hollywood luminaries who met with Castro, or tried to, and offered words of admiration despite the leader’s tainted record on human rights.
Film director Steven Spielberg accepted an invitation in 2002 from Cuba’s film institute to attend a Cuban film festival featuring Spielberg’s work.
Jack Nicholson visited the island in 1998 and was followed by Cuban intelligence. Delfin Fernandez , a Cuban intelligence operative who defected in 1999 after becoming disillusioned with the regime, has recounted having bugged both Jack Nicholson and Leonardo DiCaprio’s rooms during their visits. Nicholson told Variety at the time that “he [Castro] is a genius. We spoke about everything.”
The actor Jack Lemmon was praised by the Castro government at his death in 2001 for being “a friend of Cuba.”
Oliver Stone who had done films based on Latin America was widely criticized for a 2003 documentary about Castro, “Comandante,” that allowed the dictator to tell his story his own way.
Kevin Costner went to Cuba in 2001 to preview his film “13 Days” at a private screening for Castro: “It was an experience of a lifetime to sit only a few feet away from him and watch him relive an experience he lived as a very young man,” he said at a press conference at the time.
Model Naomi Campbell was in awe of the Communist leader when she and Kate Moss met him in 1999. “I’m so nervous and flustered because I can’t believe I have met him. He said that seeing us in person was very spiritual,” Campbell told the Toronto Star.
Redford was in Cuba over the weekend wearing his producer’s hat for a private screening of “The Motorcycle Diaries” for the widow and children of the legendary Argentine guerrilla fighter, who was Castro’s comrade-in-arms.
“He came to me…. He seemed in good health, good humor, good spirit,” Redford said of the 77-year-old Cuban leader after their brief encounter at the 8Hotel Nacional.
Redford last saw Castro in 1988. The actor was said to have gone scuba-diving with the Cuban leader and was later questioned by U.S. officials.
Longtime left-wing activist Harry Belafonte has also endorsed the policies of Castro.
“If you believe in freedom, if you believe in justice, if you believe in democracy, you have no choice but to support Fidel Castro!” the actor-singer once declared.
“We both have beards,” Oscar winning director Francis Ford Coppola once said. “We both have power and want to use it for good purposes.”
Other celebrities who embraced Castro-led Cuba over the years include Danny Glover, Gina Lollobrigida, Ed Asner and Woody Harrelson.