Don Cheadle had no trouble giving a convincing performance in his latest movie. He stars as himself. Cheadle is one of the subjects of the documentary “Darfur Now,” which the 42-year-old actor hopes will draw attention to the genocide in Sudan that has killed an estimated 200,000 civilians and displaced 2.2 million more. “I do think that it’s unfortunate that it does take quote unquote celebrity to bring attention to this,” says Cheadle. “This is the 21st century’s first genocide, and it’s happening right now and that’s not enough to lead off [the newscasts]?
“That still has to go behind Britney losing the kids to Kevin Federline and Paris Hilton going to jail and ‘America’s Next Top Model’ and ‘So You Think You Can Dance’?” Filmed from January to May of this year, “Darfur Now” – which Cheadle co-produced with “Crash” producer Cathy Schulman – follows six people around the world who are trying to help end the three-year civil war. For his part, Cheadle joined fellow “Ocean’s Eleven” star George Clooney to meet with government officials in China and Egypt to lobby the Sudan’s two biggest trading partners to step in. “Hopefully, people, if they’re inspired, will realize that they can do something more than nothing,” says Cheadle.
Ted Braun, the director of “Darfur Now,” which opens Friday, says Cheadle fit right in with other subjects like Hejewa Adam, who lost her 3-month-old son in the violence. “The way I saw [Cheadle] and wanted to present him to audiences was a guy who has kids who is seeing something happening in the world that he doesn’t understand, that horrifies him, and he’s trying to do something about it,” says Braun. Cheadle first started trying to do something about it after filming 2004’s “Hotel Rwanda” – his role earned him an Academy Award nomination – when he was invited to Darfur as part of a congressional delegation. “I don’t think I can change everything by myself,” says Cheadle. “I just have to stand up for those things that I told myself are important things to stand up for.”