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Hotel Rwanda - Don Cheadle Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. I've talked about getting under the skin of the characters, but for you was it even more of a demanding task, given that the man you're portraying is such a complex individual and the journey that he goes on is quite incredible?
A.
Really trusting the script and trusting Terry. I mean I knew there was a certain amount of preparation that I had to do to understand the historical context and to really educate myself about the militia of the history. But a lot of what happened in the film, from a narrative, the character didn't know, or the character couldn't prepare for, so I tried to just keep myself as ignorant as I could about situations so that I could really react and really respond truthfully to how a human being would respond in those moments.
And also having Paul there to ask - I never really asked him specifically about those 100 days but more trying to understand who he was as a person. He can tell you that when I first got the role, I began emailing him right away and asked him a thousand questions, probably some that seemed ridiculous to him, but just trying to get an idea of his interior life and what kind of a person he was in his spirit so to speak.

Q. And the body language? Because you totally become different during the course of this movie?
A.
Well I absolutely watched Paul. I also, once I got the film, Terry sent me some footage that he had taken of Paul on their trip to Rwanda and there was hours of that and I would just watch that over and over and over again. And then when we both were in South Africa together during the rehearsal period, we'd go out to dinner, or we'd just be walking around the set, I would definitely watch Paul a lot and sereptitiously try and get a handle on him and a read on him, including gestures and body language and all of that.

Q. Where were you when you heard about the Oscar nominations and how did you react?
A.
When I first got the news, or when they first announced the news, I was on a plane in Africa, on a UN plane back to the hotel with Paul. I called my wife and once I'd figured out the time I knew it was early in the morning and she was awake, so I knew that someone had called and woke her up, because she wasn't going to get up and check the names. So I knew somebody had called, and I figured that if somebody had called then they had probably called her to say 'hey, Don got nominated', so she said 'did you know you got nominated' and I said 'oh wow, that's great'. And then she started screaming and said 'and Sophie was nominated!' And that was really the icing on the cake. And then she added, 'oh yeah, and Terry was nominated'.

Q. Audiences are so used to watching manufactured heroism in all sorts of movies, but this is totally different because it's so real. Has it changed the way you approach films now or in the future in terms of what you pick?
A.
What's the most fun for me is to change it up. So I would actually like to do something as far away from what I've just done, just for my own personal joy and growth, for what I want to do. And also I wouldn't want to attempt to compare this to anything else; this is a singular sort of moment, I think, in my career and one that has allowed me to have audiences... as I said, Paul and I have just got back from Sudan, and we went to Sudan with a congressional delegation, on a military jet, and there were two star generals there and high-ranking representatives from NGOs and Night Line followed us, and we got to show, centre-stage, something that's going on today in the Sudan that has really frightening parallels to the situation in Rwanda. I was on CNN and I'm doing all these shows that aren't entertainment puff-piece shows about something that's very relevant and pertinent today. I've never been a part of a film before that sort of platforms into real issues and something that raises social awareness and has the potential to change things. I say potential because I don't really hold out a lot of hope that film can do that - I hold out hope, but don't really have high expectations.
But I attribute all of that to this film, the real heroism that you speak about, that Paul has, not the Rambo or Die Hard kind of manufactured heroism.

Q. But is entertainment like that just as justified for audiences?
A.
Absolutely. I understand working all week and Friday night just wanting to go and leave your brain, check it at the coat check, and go 'just thrill me with something', and have some nice popcorn and have a date. That absolutely has a place as well. I enjoy those movies and I love those movies and I want to be a part of those movies too. And they tend to pay [coughs] a little better too! It's all a part of the big sort of career path.

Q. You've made very good career choices, what drives you?
A.
I always feel like I've been very blessed because I don't read that many scripts a year that I think are that good, but I have been fortunate enough to be a part of a lot of the ones that I think are. Also to make connections with artists and filmmakers who are out there doing things that I feel in sympatico with and been able to work with them, so that's just been a fortunate set of events. I mean I've worked with Steven three times and the movies couldn't be more different, so that was just finding someone that I jive with in that way. And it was my first time to Africa, and I've since been back, and we're going back again next month to take the film back, and I have a feeling that's going to be a recurrent theme in my life.

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