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Don CheadleBluntly Speaking | Don Cheadle
an emily blunt interview

 

 

 

 

Actors are just folks playing a role…yeah, true. But some, like Don Cheadle, try to make a difference with the films they chose. Sure, he's been in some huge strictly-for-entertainment and concession-stand-sales-improvement movies, but Cheadle's also been in a few of the most moving and thought provoking, realistic, honest, and brutally truthful films ever made.

Last year's Hotel Rwanda, about a county's dark decent into genocide had audiences' eyes finally opened to the world's perils outside our comfort zone, and mini-malls. This year, Don, who helped produce as well as stars (along with an ensemble of extremely talented folks) in Crash. A film so utterly honest and slap-you-in-the-face real, the film is already causing a Hollywood buzz so loud it's been as if a giant swarm of three-foot Sci-fi-like hornets have been hovering above the Hollywood skyline for over a week before the film even was to open...

Crash may be the most important film made this year - and certainly the best of the year so far. It's a helluva film. It's entertaining and filled with things folks are just afraid to openly talk about - maybe this will help open the conversations, and make a small stitch of repair the world's torn commonality.

Don Cheadle is not a huge guy (like most actors), but his energy is strong and his broad smile truly lights up a room. He has a grand sense of humor, and believes in the power of his art. Good "art" is supposed to move, infuriate, inspire, evoke, entertain, and/or provoke its participant after all. Crash does all of this...it's even beautiful in its own way.

Our discussion is blunt and openly refreshing - enjoy.

Emily: So you seem to chose these very important films, like Hotel Rwanda and Crash to feed your soul - is it some sort of redemption for that mess Ocean's 12? (hehehe)

Don: [hearty laughter] Damn, that's a good one - [laughter] you know I use the bigger films (he says with a broad smile) to help me be able to do the smaller films, which are really important to me.

Em: Well, honestly I have said that Hotel Rwanda should be shown in every school in every city-

Don: Wow! Thanks!

Em: Now, again you bring such a poignant morally important piece to the screen - in an age of homogenized - sorry - remakes…

Don: No-no I get it. I read two scripts in 2003 two out of the 20-or-30 I read…Hotel Rwanda and Crash were the only two real decent ones. I then had two very similar conversations with each of the directors - neither had any financing, and neither had a "home." I told both of them if I could do anything to help them get made - from being in them to being behind the scenes - I would. And we agree Emily, that they are very important films! I really believed in these two films - and funny, they both found a home at Lion's Gate.

Em: I don't think it's funny ya know half my collection of dvds (the ones I bother to actually own) are Lion's Gate Films.

Don: Yeah- I know what you mean. And honest - there wasn't any plan with these two - to "redeem" myself [laughter wink].

Em: Now, you helped produce Crash - how much did you…who'd you bring in?

Don: EVERYBODY [laughter] No, when…sometimes, when you have a first time director, even though you may have a great piece of material in front of you - written - you don't know how they're going to...if they have the ability to get the idea that you've responded to across on a screen. It's a leap of faith - and we didn't have a distributor at that point. So, I just conveyed a belief that Paul COULD do it. I said, "Now, Paul you gotta do this shit right!" [laughter]

Em: So it was just a passion for the piece.

Don: Absolutely - a labor of love - no one made any money on this. We did it because we wanted to see it made.

Em: With such an ensemble - did you all ad - or improvise?

Don: You know, not a lot. The script was really solid! I mean - I wanted Paul [Haggis] to push the dialog even further. Paul was gonna get killed!

Em: Now why do you say that? [innocently]

Don: You've seen the movie right? [laughter] The line forms to the left man! Everyone gets a poke.

Em: [laughter] Good point. Hmm, I don't think Norwegians were portrayed…

Don: [laughter] I love that Paul takes the stereotypes and sets them on their ear. You know what I mean? He says, "Yep, that's the bigot. Yep, that's how he is." But then he goes…. hold on, he's in pain and yeah it's the easiest thing to go to - blame and scapegoat. But they all are multi-leveled like this. This is not a movie about racism. It's a movie about a bunch of people who are a that critical point of life - their backs are up against the wall and they're feeling the power slip through their fingers. Trying grasping power or rustling with their place; whether it's work, life, and home society. That's the easiest thing to attack - "Oh you look like that! I know you. I can talk about that."

Em: Stereotypes are-a-flyin' but then…

Don: [laughter] Yeah! That was our thing! We wanted everyone on board to be that "type." It was our mandate; go for the stereotype. Then when the audience is drawn in and comfortable we start pulling away to look more all around this person you think you know. We wanted everyone to "be that asshole." Ya know? Then we get to go "Aha, but there's a reason that guy's like that." You know? It's not just a cookie cutter cut out of a there's a full person there - in that way the film is very humanizing. It says, "Look we're all here. We all have ugly parts of us that that we don't like to admit - but they're there so let's not act like there not."

Em: Now that you've produced - are there even more important films coming your way?

Don: You really have to actively seek good films - whether it's to write, direct, produce. I mean if you sit around waiting for Warner Brothers or Universal to anoint you? Man. But, if you're the "it" guy- sure there's a few more things that you can do. I chose to open these doors. You don't say these things in movies. You could never get 'All in the Family' on the air today! It's thirty-five years later and everything is too p.c.! And we're probably in the most violent, racially explosive time we've ever lived in, in our lives. We're in an era where it's never been more out-of-whack. And people think to say something about the way they drive, or dress, or eat is too racy? It's such hypocrisy! That's why I was happy this film was made. I was like, 'Stop it! We do think like that! Brother you do get on the cell phone in the middle of the film in the theater- and it aint a good look! [laughter] So lets quit acting like it doesn't go on. And lets stop acting like it's not real - 'cause that doesn't progress anything. And on just an entertainment level? I mean come on how tired are you of going to the movies and coming out and saying, 'Well, there's two hours of my life I'll never get back!" I ate some stale popcorn and I have nothing to talk to you about what I just saw.

END

That having been said, I hope this candid interview has piqued your interest in seeing Crash. In Hotel Rwanda Cheadle and a ensemble of talents in front and behind the lens, showed how whispers and fears of the neighbor's unknowness grew into the worst cause scenario - here, in Crash it's the inner whispers of fear that make us cross the street after we insta-bio a person we think we know. Both films should be mandatory viewing as far as I'm concerned.

 

 

 


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