Up next: Joe Carnahan’s “Smokin’ Aces,” “The Dog Problem” and directing “Tishomingo Blues”
Don Cheadle might have only a supporting role in “Crash,” but he was instrumental in getting the film made. Once he read the script, by Paul Haggis and Robert Moresco, he immediately came onboard as a producer. “I didn’t think it was going to happen,” he admits. “I didn’t believe it was something anyone was interested in seeing.”
Cheadle says the subversiveness of the script appealed to him. “I was laughing through the whole thing,” he told IGN.com earlier this year. “Even in the parts that were really dark and inappropriate, I was laughing because I was just really happy that someone was going to write about these things, in the same way that I laughed at Archie Bunker 30 years ago.”
Cheadle plays an LAPD detective who, like everyone else in the provocative ensemble drama, encounters casual racism every day. As he told Jet magazine: “He’s seen too much on the job. He’s seen too much in his family. He’s sort of divorced himself, either by circumstances in his life or by his own doing, from those real, emotional human beats that drive us.”
For his character, Cheadle says that race only became an issue in one pivotal scene opposite William Fichtner, in which he’s asked to look the other way on one case in exchange for leniency for his criminal brother. “I thought the scene was very well written. Paul’s movie was much more about the ideas than it was about the trappings of the ideas, and he hired actors who could really just embody it.
“The script felt like real people saying real things in real situations,” Cheadle continues. “That was the attraction for me. This isn’t a polemic, and this isn’t some sort of investigation of race. It’s not. We’re not trying to wrap anything in a bow or give any lessons.”
After working on “Hotel Rwanda,” which he calls “a hurricane,” he admits that his acting duties on “Crash” were considerably lighter. “It was more trying to make sure Paul had everything he needed. I didn’t have to put out a lot of fires in this part.”
Still, it was his first time juggling producing and acting. “Ultimately it was as rewarding as anything I’ve ever done,” he says. “I was in a position of being able to be in front of the camera and have a say about how things developed, to try to protect the script and the ideas, and (that’s) what turned me on about it from the very beginning.”