Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Pablo Cruz started developing a Cesar Chavez biopic at their Canana Films nearly two years ago. Chavez is a legendary activist and Latino icon, revered for his efforts in the American labor movement, so his portrayer must be chosen with care. Two years later, Canana came up with an inspired choice: Michael Pena. I’ve noticed Pena most visibly in recent years creating distinct comic characters in lighter fare like Observe and Report or 30 Minutes or Less. But the actor made is name in heavier dramas like Crash and World Trade Center. Pena is versatile, and you need an actor who can tap into both sides of the craft to play an iconic figure who is a true leader of men.
Luna stepped behind the camera in 2010 to direct Abel, and has decided to make the biopic Chavez his second narrative feature. Luna cast Rosario Dawson as Dolores Huerta, Chavez’s partner in activism and co-founder of what eventually became the United Farm Workers. America Ferrera will play Chavez’s wife Helen. Hit the jump for more, including comments from Luna on the importance of Chavez’s message.
Luna told Variety:
“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.”
The script by Keir Pearson (Hotel Rwanda) will focus on Chavez organizing “the largest non-violent protest in U.S. history to accomplish his ultimate goal of obtaining basic human rights for over 50,000 farm workers in California.” Shooting is scheduled to begin next month in Mexico.