Michael Peña has been delivering excellent performances in character roles in films and on television for 20 years. He's been in the Best Picture Oscar winners "Crash" and "Million Dollar Baby," and his most recent film, "American Hustle," was just nominated for 10 Academy Awards (he plays the "Sheik" in the sting operation). So it's high time for Peña to get the leading role he deserves, and in the exclusive trailer premiere for "Cesar Chavez," it looks like he found it.
Peña — who just celebrated his 38th birthday on Monday — plays the title role of Cesar Chavez, the groundbreaking Mexican-American activist who fought for the rights of farm workers in the 1960s. Chavez spearheaded the Delano grape strike, a five-year boycott to achieve a collective bargaining agreement with California grape growers. Chavez gained national attention in 1968 when he underwent a 25-day hunger strike, and he earned the support of Robert Kennedy. Chavez continued to be a force for change throughout his life until is death at age 66 in 1993. A year later, Chavez was awarded a posthumous Medal of Freedom from President Bill Clinton, and in 2012 President Obama dedicated a national monument to Chavez in Keene, CA.
The film "Cesar Chavez" is directed by Diego Luna, best known as an actor in films like "Yu Tu Mama Tambien," "The Terminal," "Milk" and last year's "Elysium." It's the second feature from the 34-year-old director, but the first to be filmed in English. While both Peña and Luna are known mostly for their dramatic work, they've both done their share of comedy as well. Luna played Will Ferrell's brother in the Spanish-language comedy "Casa de mi Padre," and Peña co-starred in "Observe and Report," "30 Minutes or Less" and "Tower Heist."
After his leading man turn, Peña has supporting turns in more big movies coming up. He's been filming a World War II drama with Brad Pitt and his "End of Watch" director David Ayer that's set for release in November. And he's reportedly up for a major role in the Marvel comic adaptation "Ant-Man" alongside Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas.
Also starring Rosario Dawson, America Ferrara, and John Malkovich, "Cesar Chavez" will open in theaters on March 28.