“This should be a career-defining moment for Chris Rock,” Cheadle, 51, told PEOPLE during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. “I mean, there is no one better poised, in my opinion, or equipped to go in on this sh—.”
“And I hope when he does, he skewers everybody,” Cheadle continued, “the people who are complaining about it, the people who were passed up, the people that weren’t passed up, the whole idea of being passed up for this award and what it means, racism, the lack of diversity – all of it.”
Of course Cheadle had already expressed some of what he thought about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, when he tweeted at Rock on Jan. 17: “Yo, Chris. Come check me out at #TheOscars this year. They got me parking cars on G level.”
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“It went crazy,” Cheadle told PEOPLE of the reaction to that joke. “I was literally just trying to talk to Chris – of course, I know it was going out to everyone on Twitter but I wasn’t trying to start a social justice campaign. Although, I’m not upset that it went there.”
“I was just trying to make a joke that I thought was hilarious and incisive commentary on something,” Cheadle said.
He certainly has some Oscars experience. Cheadle was nominated for best actor in 2004 for his work in Hotel Rwanda and in 2005 he won a best picture Academy Award for his work as a producer in Crash.
The Ocean’s Eleven and Iron Man star, at Sundance to promote his forthcoming Miles Davis biopic Miles Ahead (out April 1), told PEOPLE that filmmaking doesn’t have an obligation to address the broader culture.
But it certainly has that power.
“Cinema has the, I wouldn’t say responsibility, but the potential for keeping [social issues] in the forefront,” he said.
And of his Miles Davis movie, coming soon? Don’t expect the “standard biopic fare,” Cheadle said.
“He was the antithesis of by the numbers. I said, ‘I want to make the movie that Miles would want to star in, that Miles wants to be the lead in that movie. I want to see a gangster movie with Miles Davis, a heist movie with Miles Davis.”
• Reporting by PATRICK GOMEZ