Michael Pena: Hispanic Heritage Month Actor Highlights

On this day during Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate "Crash," "Ant-Man," "Cesar Chavez" and "End of Watch" star Michael Pena.

Chuck Walton

By Chuck Walton

Michael Pena End of Watch

©Open Road Films/Courtesy Everett Collection

For the last quarter century, his credits include more than 50 movies and 25 television projects. If you watch anything in the realm of entertainment, you probably recognize him. We tip our hats to the amazing, gifted actor Michael Pena.

How You Know Him

©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

You know him as the fast-talking, wisecracking Luis in the MCU movies "Ant-Man" and "Ant-Man and the Wasp." He's also astronaut Major Rick Martinez in "The Martian."

The Indie Spirit Awards nominated him for his role as Officer Zavala in "End of Watch." And he appeared in consecutive Best Picture winners "Million Dollar Baby" and "Crash."

The ALMA (American Latino Media Arts) Awards recognized him for special achievement for his role as the famed labor leader in 2014's "Caesar Chavez." They also nominated him for Outstanding Actor for Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center."

He won the same award earlier for "Crash." And he was later nominated for another ALMA for Favorite Movie Actor for "Battle: Los Angeles."

His Life So Far

Michael Pena was born in 1976 in Chicago, Illinois. Both his parents emigrated from Mexico. Pena played sports growiing up (wrestling and track) and performed in the arts. He starred in indie productions by age 18. His early roles include small parts in gritty dramas "Star Maps," "La Cucaracha," and "Bellyfruit."

By the early '00s, Pena drew notices in the Nicolas Cage action flick "Gone in 60 Seconds" and Joaquin Phoenix's black comedy "Buffalo Soldiers." After his turn in 2004's "Crash," Pena found steady work in ambitious projects like "World Trade Center" and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's multi-narrative "Babel."

The actor's also managed to work across genre lines. He was funny in movies like the Eddie Murphy crime caper "Tower Heist" and Seth Rogen's "Observe and Report." But he balanced comedies with dramas like the cop thriller "End of Watch" and the World War II film "Fury" with Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf.

As well, he appeared in plenty of big budget spectacles - Ridley Scott's "The Martian," the animated "The Lego Ninjago Movie," the Ant-Man series. As such, his diversity of films made him one of the more familiar talents in Hollywood.

The Movie to See

While Pena's turn as activist Cesar Chavez is incredible, the final movie "Cesar Chavez" is a mixed result overall. For a great Michael Pena film that's underappreciated, check out his turn as a policeman opposite partner Jake Gyllenhaal in "End of Watch." Writer-director David Ayer creates an urban nightmare where cops are always at risk. Pena is throughly believable as a man in blue who does his best to perform his duties and survive. It's one of his finest roles to date, and one that's impossible to forget.

What's Up Next

Thankfully for Michael Pena fans, the actor has two great projects on the docket. First is the upcoming disaster movie "Moonfall" from "Independence Day" director Roland Emmerich. It arrives in theaters February 4, 2022, and co-stars Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, and Kelly Yu. Pena's other big project is "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania." It won't be out until February 17, 2023. But we'll be ready for it.

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End of Watch

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September 21, 2012

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Chuck Walton

Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.

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