Don Chea­dle tells Tara Brady about his brush with the Garda,

Be­tween block­busters and ac­claimed in­die dra­mas, proudly po­lit­i­cal Don Chea­dle has man­aged to find time to star in a proudly po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect Ir­ish com­edy. So what brought the Os­car nom­i­nee to Con­nemara, asks Tara Brady

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

Aback in the 1980s, when ac­tor Don Chea­dle was start­ing out, Hol­ly­wood wasn’t ex­actly think­ing out­side the box when it came to cast­ing. Black men were first-class pri­vates and gang­sters; black women stood on chairs in Tom and Jerry car­toons.

Two decades on and the Os­car-nom­i­nated star is Robert Downey’s BFF in Iron Man 2 while fel­low thes­pi­ans Will Smith and Den­zel Wash­ing­ton en­joy “colour-blind cast­ing” as the big­gest box-of­fice play­ers in the mar­ket. Sure, it looks like progress, says the Kansas­born Chea­dle, but let’s not get car­ried away.

“The fact that my char­ac­ter in Iron Man 2 is black – as in­deed he is in the comic books – doesn’t mean any­thing,” says Chea­dle. “It could do. But it’s not ex­plored. I’m not crazy about this whole colour-blind cast­ing thing. I think that when you hire a woman or some­one of colour to play a part that was writ­ten for a white man it’s im­por­tant to use that cast­ing for more than say­ing ‘Look, we can all do the same jobs.’

“I was in a con­ver­sa­tion the other day and some­one says, ‘You can’t say that Amer­ica is a racist coun­try any more be­cause there’s a LOWLY PRI­VATE IN Ham­burger Hill; the leader of the Crips in Den­nis Hop­per’s Colours; a hood­lum’s side­kick in Things to Do in Den­ver When You’re Dead; black man in the White House and the ma­jor­ity voted him in.’ That’s a ridicu­lous ar­gu­ment. Racism hasn’t gone away. Racism ex­ists. Sex­ism ex­ists. Ageism ex­ists. These things are worth talk­ing about. These things need to be ex­plored in art. That’s what art is for.”

In this spirit, Chea­dle was more than happy to sign up for The Guard, a pro­fane, proudly po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect com­edy from wri­ter­di­rec­tor John Michael McDon­agh. In com­mon with brother Martin, who di­rected Bruges and com­posed the de­motic beats of the Leenane tril­ogy, McDon­agh’s screen­play will not be re­mem­bered for its so­cial niceties.

“What was so great about The Guard is that there’s no dancing around any­thing,” says Chea­dle. “It talks di­rectly. Po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness is bor­ing, man. It’s a lie. Let’s have the ar­gu­ment; let’s not pre­tend ev­ery­thing is peachy. Just be­cause you use a dif­fer­ent word just means you’re hid­ing bet­ter. I want to know what you’re think­ing, not what you think is palat­able for me to hear.”

The film, which sees Chea­dle’s straight­laced FBI agent join forces with a rene­gade Con­nemara cop (Bren­dan Glee­son) to take down an in­ter­na­tional drugsmug­gling gang, was, he says, a no­brainer.

“The size of the pic­ture is never re­ally a con­sid­er­a­tion for me. I re­sponded to the script, which I thought was great. Imet John and took a lik­ing to him. I re­mem­bered see­ing Martin’s stuff on Broad­way and think­ing, ‘What the hell. Who is this guy?’ And I’d seen In Bruges and loved it. And I like that there’s a re­ally so­phis­ti­cated, smart kind of hu­mour here. It may be very specif­i­cally Ir­ish in terms of the ref­er­ences and col­lo­qui­alisms, but it has a po­etic uni­ver­sal­ity. It gets peo­ple. And once I knew the other per­son I’d be play­ing with was Bren­dan, I fig­ured it would only ben­e­fit me. Bren­dan is just one of the most gen­er­ous peo­ple I’ve ever met. Great hu­man be­ing.”

Born in Mis­souri and raised in Colorado, Chea­dle, 46, sus­pects his youth­ful in­ter­est in acting may have some­thing to do with his dad’s work as a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist.

“I never made the con­nec­tion when I was younger,” he says. “But when I think about it now it seems so ob­vi­ous. I do think about acting in very psy­cho­log­i­cal terms – why are they do­ing that or why they be­have one way around one per­son and dif­fer­ently around some­body else? They’re all lit­tle ques­tions but they’re part and par­cel of break­ing down a char­ac­ter.” A gifted jazz prodigy, Chea­dle was of­fered any num­ber of mu­si­cal schol­ar­ships but plumped in­stead for an acting bur­sary in Cal­i­for­nia, a de­ci­sion that, he says, was

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