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Michael Pena is Cesar E. Chavez in Diego Luna's Labor Rights Film

by
March 7, 2012
Source: Variety

Michael Pena / Cesar E. Chavez

Despite the fact that Michael Pena has shown tremendous skill across the board both as a dramatic actor in Crash (the Best Picture winner from 2004) and comedies like Observe and Report and 30 Minutes or Less, the actor hasn't yet landed a lead role. All that changes as Variety reports Pena has landed a "dream role" as Cesar E. Chavez, the labor organizer of the 60's and 70's. In addition, actor Diego Luna (Y Tu Mamá También) will be in the director's chair again with the film that depicts Chavez organizing the largest non-violent protest in U.S. history to get basic human rights for over 50,000 farm workers in California.

In addition, Luna's longtime friend and frequent co-star Gael Garcia Bernal will produce the aptly titled Chavez, written by Keir Pearson (Hotel Rwanda), through Canana Films, the company behind Miss Bala (which was on our list of the 19 Best Movies You Didn't See in 2011). Finally, the good news bear delivers some more honey for the film in the form of America Ferrera being cast as Chavez's wife Helen and Rosario Dawson as his right-hand aide Dolores Huerta. Luna is clearly excited about the film and hopes to give Chavez his due diligence on the big screen saying:

"This man inspired an entire community to see themselves as deserving of basic rights and to rise up against injustice. The film will send the message that change is in our hands -- Chavez did something everyone thought impossible with a fearless grace that magnetized an entire country."

This won't be the first time Luna has been behind the camera chronicling a man named Chavez as he also directed the documentary J.C. Chavez, which followed the life and struggles of legendary Mexican boxer Julio Cesar Chavez. More recently, Luna also co-wrote and directed Abel which got plenty of buzz at several film festivals. Frankly, I love seeing actors get behind the camera, and having a group of Hispanic talent like this come together for a film about Cesar E. Chavez sounds like a fantastic re-telling of history. Hopefully this gets some more people on the Michael Pena bandwagon too.

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  • David
    I'm one of the casting associates on this film and we are so excited. To get to work on The Artist and then this...It's really a film that should remind people of right and wrong, fair and unfair. Diego and Michael is the right men for the job. 
    • David
      *are
    • John W Flores
      The last film honoring the life of a Mexican leader was "Viva Zapata" a mere 60 years ago. Thanks to Elia Kazan, John Steinbeck, Marlon Brando, and Anthony Quinn. About time to recognize Chavez! This strong leader's spirit in the film will open doors for other important Latinos like Marine Sgt. Freddy Gonzalez, a Medal of Honor recipient KIA during the Tet Offensive. Wow, that's another story!
      • goober
        Can't imagine who Hollywood would cast as Freddy Gonzalez. Maybe Denzel.
      • Pedro Garcia
        Yes John Flores I hope you get the FREDDIE GONZALEZ story made into a picture. I'm a Producer, Director, Actor and SAG/AFTRA member from the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas (RGV) where Freddy was from and where CESAR CHAVEZ also made a huge impact. I've read your awesome book on Freddie's life WHEN THE RIVER DREAMS and I hope it can become a film one day as it will inspire youth about family values and on heroes and soldiers of our big past war called VIETNAM. I want to help you make this film!
    • Leslie Sahlen
      Just auditioned in San Carlos. So happy to have this production down here! Hope to be part of this awsome project.
    • goober
      Did you cast Dawson? She is the wrong choice to play Delores Huerta.
  • A.D.
    Rosario Dawson as Dolores Huerta?? (can't see it) lol :/ ...Michael Pena as Cesar Chavez? Ok, I guess..:P Unfortunately, it looks as if yet another film dream (remember Frida?) has been snatched away from (Master Chicano playwright) Luis Valdez & El Teatro Campesino...who would have been perfect to direct Cesar's story...:( 
  • Rwrider
    Rosario Dawson?? Dolores Huerta never looked black! Lmao!
  • Fanny
    This is great I'm really happy the film is getting made but why ask so many of us to audition when they were going to go with names all along. How's new talent ever going to get a break? I will non the less support.
  • David
    One thing you have to understand about the casting process. We have to explore options in the faint possibility that someone might come out of nowhere and surprise us. Mark my words, there were at least three or four no-names in the mix as well as Michael. At the end of the day, Michael wanted it so badly, he bent over backwards and he will do the part justice. Furthermore, to the many actors that came and auditioned, we are still in the process of casting the dayplayer roles and are pulling from our preliminary auditions to do so. Stay tuned. 
    • Fanny
      Got it. I understand and this is an opportunity to open doors for other Latino actors so we can have a bigger presence in the industry. Like the previous posts say, Rosario Dawson looks nothing like Dolores Huerta, and I think she's a fabulous actress.
    • A.D.
      Ok David, Michael is not such a big deal here, I think he could pull it off for the younger Cesar, (and hopefully some good makeup to age him later in life to try & pull a Leo DiCaprio-JEdgar).  The day players should not be a concern for the success of this film...The real issue here is Rosario Dawson grossly miscast as Dolores Huerta! This will ruin your movie about as much as she helped contribute to another horrible miscasting  example in Oliver Stone's Alexander with her completely non-Persian portrayal of Princess Roxana! :/ The Persian community of greater LA was pissed at losing that role to a non Persian back in 04, & the Chicano community should feel the same now with Dolores Huerta! Is Hollywood saying there are no qualified Mexican American/Chicana actresses to fill this role?? WTF?? :/  I dont think so! I would sooner see Ms. Dawson in a huge Afro yelling "black power!" as Angela Davis than "Chicano Power/Viva la Huelga" as Dolores Huerta! :/ The Mexican American community was pissed at Luis Valdez back in the 90's for casting an Italian American actress for his version of Frida, they should be just as pissed at Rosario Dawson playing Dolores Huerta! :/
  • speakinggiant
    What I'd like to know is will there be any Latino talent behind the scenes? And if so, where can I apply? Been struggling to sustain myself in the 'industry' as a minority.
  • Bellalatina57
    Although I like Rosario Dawson and her acting skills, as a Mexican American, or Chicana, i don't think so. It just always seems like our Mexicanan actresses get pushed aside to give the part to  "la otras latinas", I don't think America Ferrera is Mexian American either. So in keeping to respect to the whole Chavez memory, and to his family, do him justice as well as our people.
    • goober
      Do you know what else bothers me about this? After Delores Huerta dies, she might be erased from the history books, a la Arizona, and future generations will think that a black Puerto Rican woman co-founded the UFW. It was Mexican-American woman Delores Huerta standing next to Bobby Kennedy on the podium on his last day, and that should be shown in the movie! Does anybody know the name of the studio that is producing this? They need to understand that this casting is all wrong and that we will not give them our money unless the recast Huerta.
  • goober
    I'm sorry but Rosario Dawson is the wrong perosn to play Delores Huerta. Would they ever cast Dawson to play Gloria Steinem? Or Hillary Clinton? Of course not. But Mexican-American icons and history are not serious to them, so any actress of any background will do. I will not see this movie, and I will encourage others to avoid it as well.
  • Claude Gourlin
    I have to agree with the fact that Rosario Dawson is not an apt choice to play Dolores Huerta.......hope they will rethink this. 
  • Fanny_veliz
    I read that this movie is going non-union except for the stars. Is that true??? That would be so against what Cesar Chavez and Dolores stood for.
  • http://www.southpartyisland.com South Party Island
    Look the way you protest Rosario Dawson playing Dolores Huerta is by not going to see it. When the movie is a bust and they lose their investment for bad casting they will stop this practice of bad casting. Mexican Americans are still pissed JLo played Selena. They could not find a Mexican American/Mexican Girl who could play that part. They had to go to the Ghettos of NYC in the Bronx to find a Nuyorican.  With all the Mexican American Actresses and they can't find one. This is sad. I just don't watch movies that do not have a correct representation of Mexican Americans or Mexicans in the movie when the real people were Mexican. Isn't it other Latinos who always protest to others that they are not Mexican and then come and play Mexican parts.  Don't watch this movie. It is sad because a very important message will be missed by the younger community. 
    • goober
      Exactly. I can't pay to watch a movie that erases Chicanas from our own history.They never cast Mexican-American actresses unless it's to play the maid.
  • ODA
     Stop being a Racist about Rosario Dawson playing Dolores Huerta. It is against the Law do Discriminate and not give her the part based on Race, Creed or Color. You are making a judgement on her acting before even looking at any film footage. She obviously did better than anyone else at the audition or she would not have gotten the part. If Dolores Huerta is pleased with Rosario Dawson playing her, than everything is great !!! Remember, Civil Rights workers are not Racists Pigs. When Huerta, took to the podium, she told Dawson, “Rosario, I’m glad you’re gonna play me. That’s awesome.”
    • goober
      Nobody is being racist, so that card won't work. Dolores Huerta is a real person, a Chicana who played an important role in US labor history. She is not some fictional character. The filmmakers have a responsibility to get this right, and by casting Dawson they are literally changing the story and erasing the real Dolores Huerta.. A black Puerto Rican woman did not co-found the United Farm Workers. If they are playing fast and loose with the casting, then how many other facts will they get wrong? Hollywood is racist against Mexican-Americans/Chicanos, and I won't watch this movie unless they replace Dawson.

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