Speaking | Don Cheadle
emily blunt interview
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.
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...
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.
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.
is blunt and openly refreshing - enjoy.
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)
[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-
Em: Now, again you bring such a poignant morally important
piece to the screen - in an age of homogenized - sorry - remakes
No-no I get it. I read two scripts in 2003 two out of the 20-or-30 I read
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.
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
Now, you helped produce Crash - how much did you
who'd you bring in?
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]
So it was just a passion for the piece.
Absolutely - a labor of love - no one made any money on this. We did it because
we wanted to see it made.
With such an ensemble - did you all ad - or improvise?
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!
Now why do you say that? [innocently]
You've seen the movie right? [laughter] The line forms to the left man! Everyone
gets a poke.
[laughter] Good point. Hmm, I don't think Norwegians were portrayed
[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
Stereotypes are-a-flyin' but then
[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."
Now that you've produced - are there even more important films coming your way?
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.
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.