April 1, 2007


Taking the lead: Having spent 20 years as a chameleon-like scene stealer, Don Cheadle has quietly stepped up to the ranks of Hollywood's elite. Here, the star of Hotel Rwanda and the soon-to-be-released Reign Over Me talks to Euan Ferguson about his long wait, his campaigning work in Sudan and where he got that terrible Cockney accent (Euan Ferguson, April 1, 2007, The Observer)

Finally they've found a way to stop Don Cheadle stealing a scene, an impressive feat without recourse to leg irons or the forcible gagging of his chirpy mouth with oily rags. Quite simply, they've let him open, let him lead; and the only person Cheadle can steal from is himself. And he almost manages that. Within the first minutes of Reign Over Me, as his New York dentist Alan Johnson struggles to cope with his pompous white subordinates, the frustrations of a too-perfect marriage and, thanks to the demented beauty of Saffron Burrows, what must (surely) be the most sexually charged movie scene ever to have incorporated an orthodontic spittoon, we are laughing, cringing, double-taking, empathising along with him. More importantly, a sizeable part of the audience will, while doing all this, be racking its collective brain. I know this guy. He's the guy from ... yes, the guy from ... No. Wasn't he in ...? Whatever, he's good. Who is this guy again?

It was only a matter of time, really, before Cheadle stepped up to leading-man status: a step whose very rightness is underwritten by the fact that, as his handsome face fills the preview screen in LA's Culver City, it feels, somehow, as if he's been here all along.

Substantially, he has, though often just out of the corners of our eyes. Multi-Emmy and Bafta nominee for (among others) Crash (which he co-produced) and Golden Globe winner for his portrayal of Sammy Davis Jr in The Rat Pack, he was also in Traffic and playfully if accidentally outplayed Denzel Washington in Devil in a Blue Dress, George Clooney in Out of Sight and an entire red planet in Mission to Mars. He did lead before, albeit in one very non-Hollywood movie, Terry George's brave Hotel Rwanda, for which he and his co-star and friend, Sophie Okonedo, were rightly Oscar nominated. He chooses characters and scripts he loves, is fast and talented and witty enough to retain huge integrity and unusual popularity in the snake pit of Hollywood. And is saved from dull filmic sainthood by taking on the occasional repeated role - in this case Basher Tarr in the Ocean's 11 series - which lets him pocket a fat pay cheque and hang out with his friends George and Brad and Matt and have a lot of fun ('Oh, it's embarrassing to get paid to do that movie') while adopting the most preposterous Cockney accent since Dick van Dyke, about which he is later refreshingly honest, and much taken by mournful head-shaking and exuberant new swearwords.

Cheadle is quietly stepping up, at the age of 42, away from memorable chameleon to opening man, leading man, A-list material.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 1, 2007 12:50 PM

And earlier still, as "Mouse" he utterly stole all of Carl Franklin's "Devil in a Blue Dress" from Denzel Washington, to the point that Cheadle is the primary reason that film is worth watching over and over. A superb actor.

Posted by: Qiao Yang at April 1, 2007 1:33 PM

Lisa Nicole Carson makes it worth watching too. :)

Actually, the best thing about it, though heartbreaking, is the scene at the end with Easy looking down his working class street in LA before it was destroyed.

Posted by: oj at April 1, 2007 3:39 PM