Michael Pena’s dream role is now a reality, as the “Crash” star is set to play 1960s and ’70s labor organizer Cesar E. Chavez in the indie drama “Chavez,” which Diego Luna will direct from a script by Keir Pearson.
America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty”) is set to co-star as his wife, Helen Chavez, while Rosario Dawson (“Trance”) will play his right-hand aide, Dolores Huerta.
Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal and Pablo Cruz will produce through Canana Films (“Miss Bala”) along with John Malkovich, Lianne Halfon and Russell Smith of Mr. Mudd (“Young Adult”). Pearson and Larry Meli will also serve as producers.
Pic depicts Chavez organizing the largest non-violent protest in U.S. history to accomplish his ultimate goal of obtaining basic human rights for over 50,000 farm workers in California.
“This man inspired an entire community to see themselves as deserving of basic rights and to rise up against injustice,” said Luna. “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.”
“Chavez” will begin shooting in the state of Sonora, Mexico in April. Jackie Eckhouse and Karen Segall from Sloss Law negotiated the deal on behalf of Canana.
Luna first went behind the lens with “J.C. Chavez,” a documentary about the life and struggles of legendary Mexican boxer Julio Cesar Chavez. In 2009, Luna directed and co-wrote his first feature “Abel,” which was a hit on the festival circuit.
Pena, who recently appeared in Brett Ratner’s “Tower Heist,” next stars opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in Open Road’s police pic “End of Watch,” which co-stars Ferrera. Thesp also co-stars in “Gangster Squad,” which Warners opens Oct. 12.
Luna is repped by WME and attorney Bob Wallerstein, while Pena is repped by CAA, Management 360 and attorney Rick Genow.
Ferrera is repped by ICM, Authentic Talent and Literary Management and attorney Jodi Peikoff, while Dawson is repped by CAA, Untitled Entertainment and attorney Carlos Goodman.