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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Actor and director John Leguizamo recently released a film titled “Critical Thinking.” It is based on a true story from 1998, where five teenagers from one of the toughest Miami neighborhoods fight their way into the National Chess Championship under the guidance of their unconventional, but inspirational teacher Mario Martinez known as ‘Mr.

T.’

The film was shot in Overtown in just 20 days back in 2018 on a small budget of $3 million. Leguizamo directs and stars in it as Miami Jackson High school teacher ‘Mr. T.’

CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo sat down with Leguizamo to discuss the release of this film.

“I just love the story because I can relate to these nerd kids who don’t feel like they fit in anywhere, there’s no place for them, they don’t want to be fighters and don’t want to be gangsters. They didn’t want to play football. They were just nerds,  bookworms and this teacher created this beautiful safe space for them to feel safe and then built into these champs. So, I love that story,” said Leguizamo.

This homegrown film project has been in the works for more than 20 years.

Miami movie producer Carla Berkowitz, Miami’s own Emilio Estefan, and local businessman Harvey Chaplin were the film’s executive producers.

The real Mario Martinez says his goal was to give these boys an avenue to succeed.

“And if they could succeed in a game like this, that’s highly intellectual analytical, they could succeed in life just as well. And chess teaches you to learn how to make decisions to think ahead and that’s what life is all about making good choices,” said Martinez.

Leguizamo says that all the kids need is support to be who they need to be.

“The sad and beautiful thing is that there is a lot of these super-gifted genius kids in our communities that are not getting the love and nurturing that they deserve and they know what the magic bullet is, it’s just money. We have great teachers in America. We have the skills. We just need to be clean, need supplies and we need money.”

The story behind it is extremely heartfelt and Leguziamo explains.

“In these dark times, we need inspiring movies like this to show the incredible ability of people to help each other to be there for each other to respect each other… and I think you’re gonna love this movie.”

‘Critical Thinking’ is now in theaters, but can also be seen in most movie watching platforms on TV.

News Source: cbslocal.com

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Why Ethan Hawke created his first TV show with The Good Lord Bird

Ethan Hawke makes his debut as a series creator with Showtime’s Civil War-era miniseries “The Good Lord Bird.”

“It was definitely the most challenging undertaking of my life,” says Hawke, 49, who stars in and executive-produced the show. “It was like doing four or five indie movies back-to-back.”

Premiering Oct. 4 at 9 p.m. — and based on James McBride’s National Book Award-winning 2013 novel of the same name — “The Good Lord Bird” follows newly freed young slave Henry, nicknamed “Onion” (Joshua Caleb Johnson), who ends up with famous abolitionist John Brown (Hawke) and his band of soldiers on a crusade to end slavery. It culminates in the 1859 raid on the Army depot at Harpers Ferry, Va. — the prelude to the Civil War.

(Brown ultimately became the first person in US history to be executed for treason; his 1859 hanging is the show’s attention-grabbing opening.)

“I’m not playing John Brown the historical figure, I’m playing John Brown as Onion sees him and as James McBride spins a big yarn,” says Hawke.

Ethan Hawke as John Brown in “The Good Lord Bird.”Kevin Lynch/SHOWTIME

“It’s a strange tone to walk. It’s a tone [Quentin] Tarantino has hit and the Coen brothers have hit, where it’s half-ridiculous and half-blistering and half-electric and half-silly and half-preposterous. That was the joy of it — it’s like taking a high dive. You don’t really know how it’s going to go, you just have to throw yourself off and hope you live.”

“The Good Lord Bird” mixes fact and fiction: “All of this is true. Most of it happened,” reads a tongue-in-cheek on-screen announcement. In addition to Brown, the fictional Onion encounters iconic figures such as Frederick Douglass (“Hamilton” star Daveed Diggs).

“I’m a big Mark Twain fan, and I just felt like McBride lapped Mark Twain,” says Hawke. “It’s like [‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’], but Huck Finn flirts with talking about race in America, and McBride dives all-in. So I just wanted to share it with everybody I knew, and the way to do that is to perform it.

Beau Knapp as Owen Brown, Ethan Hawke as John Brown, Joshua Caleb Johnson as Onion, Ellar Coltrane as Salmon Brown and Mo Brings Plenty as Ottawa Jones in “The Good Lord Bird.”William Gray/SHOWTIME

“The Harpers Ferry raid is one of the most dramatic events in US history, and I couldn’t believe it hasn’t been 15 movies,” he says. “They made about a hundred movies about the Alamo…[the raid] is such an incendiary story, and to talk about it forces you to have other conversations that are hard. That’s why it’s been avoided.”

The seven-episode miniseries is a rare TV role for Hawke, whose career has primarily been on the big screen, where he’s racked up four Oscar nominations to date (“Best Supporting Actor” nods for “Boyhood” and “Training Day” and “Best Adapted Screenplay” nods for “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight”).

He says, though, that creating a TV series has not been a longtime ambition.

Joshua Caleb Johnson as Onion and Ethan Hawke as John Brown.Kevin Lynch/SHOWTIME

“It was really just this story. I was thinking, ‘How would you tell that book in two hours?’ You wouldn’t be able to reduce it enough for a movie,” he says. “And my wife [producer Ryan Hawke] was like, ‘Dummy, there’s this thing called limited series now, wake up!’ So in a lot of ways, I always just thought of it as a long movie.”

But despite the massive undertaking by Hawke to co-create “The Good Lord Bird” — along with “Hell on Wheels” writer Mark Richard — and to executive-produce the series, he says it wasn’t a hardship to star in it as well.

“I love acting. I loved being on set with the guys and playing this character,” he says. “In a lot of ways, the production was the work, and the work was the play.

“Gene Hackman has my favorite line: ‘They pay me to wait. I’ll act for free. It’s the waiting I hate.’ ”

Filed under Blumhouse ,  blumhouse tv ,  civil war ,  ethan hawke ,  showtime ,  9/25/20

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