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In the Works: Michael Pena Lands Cesar Chavez Role in Diego Luna Directed Biopic

Photo of Anne Thompson and Maggie Lange By Anne Thompson and Maggie Lange | Thompson on Hollywood March 7, 2012 at 2:16PM

Michael Pena has landed an ambitiously juicy role as the 60s-70s' Mexican-American social activist César E. Chávez in an upcoming English-language biopic directed by Mexican actor-filmmaker Diego Luna. Pena can do anything, from dark dramas (Oscar-winner "Crash") to silly comedies ("Tower Heist," "30 Minutes or Less").
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Michael Pena

Michael Pena has landed an ambitiously juicy role as the 60s-70s' Mexican-American social activist César E. Chávez in an upcoming English-language biopic directed by Mexican actor-filmmaker Diego Luna. Pena can do anything, from dark dramas (Oscar-winner "Crash," Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center") to silly comedies ("Tower Heist," "Observe and Report," "30 Minutes or Less").

Diego Luna is partnered with his "Y Tu Mama" and "Rudo y Cursi" co-star Gael Garcia Bernal and Pablo Cruz in the production company Canana, which is producing "Chavez" with Mr. Mudd's John Malkovich, Lianne Halfon and Russell Smith ("Juno," "Young Adult"). Canana also produced Gerardo Naranjo's must-see Mexican Oscar submission "Miss Bala." (TOH talked to Luna about his feature directing debut "Abel," a fest circuit hit.)

Luna co-wrote the script for "Chávez" along with Keir Pearson, who is also producing, with Larry Meli. The film also stars America Ferrera as Chavez's wife and Rosario Dawson as his key aide.

The biopic will focus on Chávez's ability to lead the largest non-violent protest in U.S. history.  Luna has said that he hopes this film will shine a light on how it is possible for people to unite to overcome social injustice. Chávez's labor advocacy succeeded -- and he obtained basic human rights for more than 50,000 farm workers in California. 

Production on "Chávez" begins next month in Mexico. [Via Variety.]

This article is related to: Michael Peña, Diego Luna, Diego Luna, America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.