Don Cheadle Says His Miles Davis Movie Is A "Gangster Pic" Set In 1979

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by Benjamin Wright
January 2, 2012 9:23 AM
2 Comments
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Adds There Is A Studio Offer, But Still Working Out Budget

It was a year ago that we last heard about Don Cheadle’s proposed Miles Davis biopic. A long gestating passion project for the actor, Cheadle has been talking the picture up for quite awhile now, planning to direct and star as Davis himself, with the picture receiving approval from Davis’ estate and label for use of the legendary musician's work in the film, and Herbie Hancock has long been attached to score.

Despite a rival Davis biopic having gotten up and running with “Notorious” director George Tillman Jr. since our last update from Cheadle, it looks as if the wheels are still in motion for the ambitious actor who still seems ready to tackle the life story of the jazz legend. Talking to the Wall Street Journal (via Shadow & Act) about his upcoming Showtime television series “House of Lies,” Cheadle ran a little off topic to delve into some news regarding his passion project.

“... It's three to five years average for most movies to get made, but often it's 10 or 15 years. This is the kind of movie the business 10 years ago may have leapt at. But now, you don't really see movies like this. We have a studio offer and we're trying to back into a budget number, like we always have to do, without gutting the piece," he explained. "...It's not a biopic, per se. It's a gangster pic. It's a movie that Miles Davis would have wanted to star in. Without throwing history away, we're trying to shuffle it and make it more cubist. The bulk of it takes place in '79, in a period where he actually wasn't playing. But we traverse a lot of it his life, but it's not a cradle to grave story...”

Gangster pic? Cubist? Taking place in an era when he wasn't playing music and is arguably his least vital? Cheadle is certainly eager to forgo the standard biopic tropes and this seems to be as ambitious as the music Davis created. As for the other Miles Davis project, Cheadle maintains his confidence in his own biopic, as well as his respect for Davis’ story.

“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," he said. "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.”

So it looks as if Tillman Jr. won’t be causing Cheadle any sleepless nights, and in an age where we can have two “Snow White” films, we agree with Cheadle that another perspective on Davis’ life couldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Let’s hope this isn’t a project we’re still talking about waiting to be made a year from now, but we’ll have to wait and see how the studio offer and budgets play out.

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2 Comments

  • Andre Seewood | March 7, 2012 12:17 PMReply

    Finally, someone with the guts, integrity and the acting ability to try and do something different with the story of an iconic musician. God bless Don Cheadle. I pray he gets that film made. It would be great to once again have to option (the choice I dare say) to go see either George Tillman Jr's "pedestrian" by-the-numbers bio-pic (Notorious was awful) or Cheadle's daring approach: that would be fantastic. But alas, I fear it is but a dream. Neither studio would want to "split" the African-American audience in fear of losing precious first and second weekend box-office. Although a film on Miles Davis "in theory" should have an international market appeal (where ever jazz has been played in the world)- and Cheadle should definitely look for some type of international co-financing for this project. Miles did the score for a French film Louis Malle's Elevator to the Gallows, so I'd start there in France. I can foresee that there might be some controversy surrounding his approach to Miles Davis, but somebody, somewhere has to shake things up a bit in African-American cinema; without the risks there aren't going to be any rewards.

  • Pike | January 2, 2012 12:16 PMReply

    Sounds pretty wild and cool. And when it comes to biopics, especially those of legendary musicians, that's what I like. I can't watch regular biopics anymore since having seen ''I'm Not There''. Honestly, which of the two most accurately captures the spirit and the energy of the career of their respective subjects; Walk the Line or I'm Not There? I'm all for ''cubist'' or ''abstract'' or whatever name they want to put on it, as long as it's not another ''cradle to the grave'' story! I Hope this gets made.

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