NEW YORK (AP) — Playing renowned civil rights activist Dolores Huerta in the new biopic “Cesar Chavez” doesn’t seem to be enough for Rosario Dawson. The actress, who knows and has worked with Huerta, would now like to bring her friend’s life to the screen.
“I hope with the success of this film that there’s an opportunity to tell her story, ’cause she’s still writing it, she’s still out there on the front lines doing the stuff,” Dawson said in a recent interview.
After appearing in “Chavez,” which opened Friday, Dawson said she was “very much encouraged” to produce a story about Huerta. “I did so much research about her and it was just impossible — a lot of the stuff that we filmed didn’t even make it into the cut,” she said.
Starring Michael Pena in the title role and America Ferrera as his wife, Helen, “Cesar Chavez” follows the Chicano activist as he builds the United Farm Workers union and eventually forces growers to sign contracts to better the working conditions of mostly Latino field laborers.
“What’s really remarkable about this movie is that it really shows how women, specially his wife, were such a big part of (Chavez’s) life and how broad the community was of people that made this movement possible,” Dawson said. “He was a very sort of reluctant hero, he wasn’t the best orator, speaker, speechwriter or any of these different things, but his message was really clear — he was speaking for himself, for his family and for the greater community.”
Huerta is just the opposite, Dawson said: “She is very forthright, she is very in your face, she would have no problem jumping into this meeting (saying) ‘I’ve never had any experience writing a contract before but I’m going in.'”
“I think they really balance each other out and I think having women be such a huge part of the movement is what helped it to stay non-violent and I just really credit (director Diego Luna) for making a film that really shows how many people were part of it and specially those women.”
Dawson first met Huerta a few years ago when they collaborated about the organization Voto Latino, which was co-founded by the actress to promote the Latino vote in the United States. Since then, they’ve kept in touch. Dawson has also worked with the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
When Luna met Dawson to offer her the role, the actress wanted to know exactly what his intentions were. “I knew her and I loved her, so I was (like), ‘Why are you doing this film?'” she said, laughing. Then Huerta gave the casting her blessing and the deal was done.
Dawson said the hardest part about playing Huerta was portraying someone who is still alive but also who she knows and admires deeply.
“I have a tendency to gravitate toward stories like that … (portraying) particularly strong women. I like playing women who make their presence known in their community,” said the star of films like “Sin City,” ”Death Proof” and “Grindhouse.” ”But it’s also been really fun over the years playing, you know, sick, soft, nervous and anxious. I find being vulnerable much more difficult to do for myself as a role.”
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