Miles Davis Was Born Today... Updates On Biopics From Don Cheadle & George Tillman Jr

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by Tambay A. Obenson
May 26, 2013 9:20 PM
7 Comments
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Today in history... Miles Dewey Davis was born on May 261926 in Alton, Illinois, to Dr. Miles Henry Davis and Cleota Mae (HenryDavis.

I think many will find it odd that we still haven't seen a proper scripted film on the man, the legend.

For the last 2 years, we've been tracking 2 different projects that are currently in development.

First, Don Cheadle's unconventional bio, which he's been working to launch for what feels like several years now.

The most recent update we have on the project included an interview Cheadle gave The Hollywood Reporter, in which he talked about practicing trumpet during his lunch breaks, while on the set of his hit Showtime series, House of Lies, in preparation for his Mile Davis bio.

A title for the film has also been revealed to be Kill The Trumpet Player, which I'd guess that maybe Cheadle was inspired by French New Wave cinema pioneer François Truffaut's 1960 French crime drama film, Shoot The Piano Player. But I could be wrong. Just a guess.

Although Don has said a number of times that the film is definitely not your conventional biopic, instead calling it more of a "gangster movie," suggesting that he's likely taking some liberties with Miles Davis' story. I'm looking forward to hearing more, and seeing what the reaction to his ideas will be from audiences who haven't taken too kindly to biopics of black public figures that deviate from what we know to be fact.

Antoine Fuqua was previously said to be attached to direct the film. Of course Fuqua is probably best known for his adult crime dramas, so, with all that's currently in front of us with regards to Cheadle's project (including Cheadle's "gangster movie" reference), maybe the title comparison to Truffaut's film is more than just a guess on my part, and no accident.

And second, George Tillman Jr is attached to helm a film that will be loosely based on Gregory Davis' book, Dark Magus: The Jekyll and Hyde Life of Miles Davis (Gregory Davis being Miles Davis' eldest son). 

The plan for Tillman's project, which will be called Miles Davis, Prince of Darkness, is to produce a more conventional biopic (the producers previously mentioned Walk The Line and Ray as potential models that they'll follow).

The most recent update we have on this is Tillman's revelation during a January interview at the Sundance Film Festival (where his latest film, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, premiered), sharing that he was working on the film's script, and was very excited about it, adding that he felt the pressure to essentially "get it right."

WSJ asked Cheadle about that competing film, last spring, and he had this to say in response:

That's something I just heard about in the last month. Look, if the world is ready to have two Miles Davis movies, fantastic. He should have eight or 10 of them [...] We're working with the family and we have all the music. There's another period of music, about three or four years [that the other project appears to have rights to]. These estates are sometimes bifurcated. We have what we need for our film. Look, God bless. If there's another quality movie about this legend, that's great. I don't think anyone's going to be making the kind of movie we're making.

We continue to hang on his every word regarding this yet-to-be-made film, which, from all I've heard from, is supposed to be a very interesting, original take on Davis. Add to that these teases we continue to get from him about what to expect, and I'm definitely very curious about what the film is going to look, sound and feel like, and hope he gets the money he needs to get it done!

But I expect Tillman's more conventional film to get the funding go-ahead first.

Happy birthday Miles Davis!

As my gift to you all, here's a stream of the entire Kind Of Blue album, considered one of the most influential albums ever made, and also one of my all-time favorites:

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7 Comments

  • Donella | May 28, 2013 9:05 AMReply

    I will watch both, if made. I like the traditional biopics in the spirit of Ray and Walk the Line. And while I'm not a fan of the "gangster" theme, it sounds as if Cheadle has access to the music. It would be a struggle to watch a Miles Davis movie and not experience the music, so I'm not sure what Tillman has planned in that arena. Like Carey says, Kind of Blue is mesmerizing which is why I'm never able to get anything else done while it plays.

  • CareyCarey | May 27, 2013 12:39 PMReply

    My ALL TIME FAVORITE jazz album! Aside from the fact Kind of Blue brought together legendary musicians John Coltrane, Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, Bill Evans and Jimmy Cobb, to this day that album always takes me places. It's trance inducing melodies takes me down a wondrous path of memories. And, I could care less about his alleged indiscretions.

    I mean, who focuses on a performers past? Heck, if I ventured sown that messy highway I'd have to put a lock on a large chunk of my music selections. You know, Michael Jackson, Etta James, Dorothy Dandridge, Ray Charles, BeBe Winans, Chuck Berry, Whitney Houston, Bill Withers, Jay-Z and Topac have all fallen down, but what purpose does it serve to wallow in their missteps?

    Good looking out, Tambay.

  • Nadia | May 26, 2013 10:06 PMReply

    Miles Davis' physical (and emotional) abuse of Cicely Tyson has been a source of great frustration for me, and the basis for resentment that has lingered over the years.

    It's something that I struggle with. How do you separate the man from his music? I love Miles Davis' music to death. I think he's one of the greatest musicians that has ever lived and I own almost every album of his.

    But it's hard to enjoy the music when I of his vicious abuse of Cicely and other women in his life, like his ex-wife, Frances Davis.

    And what's worse is that he never made any public statement of remorse about his violence against women.

    So I have to wonder if any of these two biopics will show that side of Miles, or leave the ugly stuff out. And I wonder how people who know Miles' history will react to that.

  • TAZ | May 27, 2013 5:42 PM

    I completely get where you are coming from. The thing that has been really interesting thought for me is whether the genius music enjoy would have been made at all if not for the demons that he had? Same for Ray, Marvin, Phyllis, etc. Only God knows.

  • BluTopaz | May 26, 2013 11:08 PM

    I hear you. I'm not really a Miles fan but I've often thought it would be cool to see a project based on the influence Betty Davis had on his career, and possibly the one woman in his life he could not abuse. Imagine being the muse Miles Davis regarded as "too wild"-lol

  • Nadia | May 26, 2013 10:10 PM

    The sentence should read: "But it's hard to enjoy the music when I think of his vicious abuse of Cicely and other women in his life, like his ex-wife, Frances Davis."

  • ALM | May 26, 2013 9:49 PMReply

    Don as Mr. Davis= yes!!!

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