07/28/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT
Whoopi Goldberg may have won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for playing a spiritualist in the 1990 movie "Ghost," but can she resurrect the spirit of salsa queen Celia Cruz in a big-screen biopic?
According to the New York Post, fans of the late Cruz -- who died of a brain tumor two weeks ago at the age of 78 -- are not happy that Goldberg, 47, owns the rights to the Cuban-born legend's rags-to-riches story and plans to play her in the upcoming movie.
Samuel L. Jackson will reportedly play Cruz's devoted husband, Pedro Knight.
"Whoopi doesn't sing and she's not Latina," New York Latinomix radio host Celiines Torbino tells the paper. "For you to portray a life like Celia Cruz('s), you have to have a Latina flavor."
Callers to Torbino's show more or less echoed the same sentiment. "What about Patti LaBelle?" asked one (although LaBelle is not Latina, either).
The Post says Goldberg approached Cruz three years ago to secure the rights, and that the star will co-produce the project with Cuban-born Univision TV host Cristina for Whoopi's One Ho Productions.
Through a publicist, Goldberg said that Cruz -- whose funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York last week was attended by 140,000 fans -- had a profound effect on her as she was growing up.
"To see a rich, dark, chocolate woman in command of thousands of people with her voice and her energy helped me believe that anything is possible," her statement said.