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Michael Pena To Star As Cesar Chavez In Labor Organizer's Biopic

It's been nearly two years since Oscar-nominated screenwriter Keir Pearson announced his plans to write a biopic about Cesar Chavez, the labor organizer who fought for the rights of migrant farm workers in the Southwest in the 1960s and 70s. The biopic seemed to have stalled out somewhere in development since that announcement, but today we're learning it's gotten a big, starry boost. Variety reports that Michael Pena is set to play Chavez in an adaptation of Pearson's script to be directed by Diego Luna, the actor known for roles in Y tu Mama Tambien and more recently Contraband.

Luna has one feature film behind him, 2010's coming of age story Abel, but Chavez will likely be a whole lot bigger, and with bigger stars to go along with it. America Ferrera is set to play Chavez's wife, Helen Chavez, while Rosario Dawson will play his aide, Dolores Huerta. The Variety writeup says the action of the film will focus on Chavez organizing the largest non-violent protest in U.S. history on behalf of farm workers, though since Chavez led several similar strikes throughout his career, it's unclear if it will focus on one of them or meld several together into a single story. Luna also provided a statement about the importance of Chavez's work:

"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."

As big a step as this will be for Luna, it's even huger for Pena, who has shown a big range in everything from the dramatic Crash to the ridiculous Observe and Report, but has never had the breakout role to really put him on the map. Chavez seems like it could do exactly that, and no matter how the film turns out, a strong performance from Pena will likely get noticed no matter what. Shooting is set to begin in Mexico in April, and if we're lucky, we might get a look at Chavez before the end of the year.

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend