Michael Pena to Play Labor Activist Cesar Chavez in CHAVEZ; Rosario Dawson Cast as Dolores Huerta, America Ferrera Co-Stars

     March 6, 2012


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.

diego-luna-imageLuna 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.

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  • A.D.

    Rosario Dawson as Dolores Huerta?? (pretty silly! Dolores never looked black!) 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…watch Zoot Suit & La Bamba & see why! .:( 

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  • Teresa

    Dawson should be replaced. She is not the right actress to play Dolores Huerta!!!

  • Johnny Itliong

    If only the true story is told. It was Larry Itliong who started it all. If only people would do the research. You would know that Caesar was asked by Larry Itliong to join the AWOC Strike. It did not start with NFWA Caesar’s union. Larry had 30 of Labor Leading and Union organizing, successful strikes recognized by AFL-CIO as a Union Leader and Caesar only had 3 years of experience with NFWA that was never recognized as a Union. Caesar changed the United Farm Worker in to a Chicano Movement….Whats united about that???
    He iced out the Filipinos and created his own history. How do I know I was there and Larry was my Father.

  • Dionesio

    Most movies supposedly based on true stories usually deviate from facts to add marketability to the product. My hope is that in this case the moviemakers/director must not disrespect/dishonor the very significant role that Filipino farm workers had in establishing the original union that had already achieved benefits for the workers before Chavez hesitantly joined in. In short, let’s honor Chavez but not at the expense of his fellow leaders.

  • Dionesio

    Most movies supposedly based on true stories at times deviate from facts to add

    marketability to the finished product. My hope here is that the moviemakers concerned will

    not disrespect/dishonor the Filipino workers who were the ones who established the original

    union that already had achieved benefits for the workers even before Chavez hesitantly joined

    in. In short, let’s honor Chavez but not at the expense of his fellow leaders in the movement.

  • Fred Docdocil

    Speak on it, Johnny!

    While I believe Cesar deserves all of the recognition he receives, I think it’s equally important to tell the whole story. And the fact of the matter is, the Filipino Labor Leaders such as Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz were, and continue to be, shortchanged by history.

    I sincerely hope that the creators of this movie do the story justice…