The Miles Davis Movie: Who will distribute the Miles Davis biopic?

A big topic of discussion around Hollywood these days is distribution; specifically indie-film distribution and the changing landscape for the specialty-film divisions.

While the big studios are having a hot, hot summer with titles like “Iron Man,” “Get Smart,” “Wall-E” and “Wanted,” things are a but chillier for the art-house movie scene.

We’ve already seen earlier this year Paramount Pictures announce that its main studio will absorb the marketing, distribution and physical production departments at its specialty label, Paramount Vantage.

This news was preceded by Warner Bros. closing down two of its art-house labels, Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures.

Just the other day the NY Times ran a story about Alex Gibney, the director of this year’s Oscar-winning documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side,” who filed for arbitration, ‘asserting that its box office prospects were undermined by the financial troubles of the film’s distributor, ThinkFilm.’

And David Carr, columnist for the NY Times, said of this summers’ art-house movie scene: “Once you start looking under the tent poles, though, perhaps for a film where nothing is blown up, things become grim.

“There’s no small wonder like “Once” on the horizon, let alone miniatures with big breakout potential like “Juno” or “Little Miss Sunshine.” The rest of the movies — lots of moody family stories, dysfunctional parables and eat-your-vegetables documentaries — come and go without notice in these long, hot summer months. Why are there no independent movies worth seeing? As Yogi Berra might say, there are just too many of them.”

So what does all this have to do with the Miles Davis biopic? As far as I know, which is nothing(!), the biopic does not have distribution lined up (which makes sense to a point since I don’t think anything has been filmed), and there’s only so many shops on the block these days who can distribute a movie.

I read that producer Cary Brokaw and his Avenue Pictures have a deal in place with Fox TV Studios, but I’m not sure if that carries over at all to the film division at Fox.

To check production credits on various Brokaw-related projects (via Avenue Pictures) it’s a mix of big name distributors (Sony) and smaller groups (Anchor Bay Entertainment).

One would have to believe Brokaw could ring a number of studios who might be interested.

Don Cheadle’s upcoming drama, “Traitor,” is being produced through his Crescendo Pictures, and Overture Films is listed as the distributor, so maybe they are talking about the Miles Davis biopic.

Of course if the film makes the rounds at all the big film festivals there could be a bidding war to get the rights to the project.

It’s an important part of the process because in the right hands the film can achieve all its marketing and box-office potential. I have no doubt the biopic will be a critical hit and bring in well-deserved praise, but it’s called the movie business for a reason and the biopic needs to find an audience to make it a financial success as well.

I’m sure plenty of studios, from the majors to the independents, will be intrigued with the Miles Davis biopic. I’ll be interested to see how it plays out because the marketing of this project (any project) is vital to its success with the ‘general’ movie-going public; I’m already good for a ticket (or more!), but how this particular film is positioned in the marketplace will go a long way in determining how successful the Miles Davis biopic ultimately is.

We’re talking dollars and cents, of course. It’s ‘success’ as a piece of cinematic art I think will be firmly established, but just as Michael Corleone says to his brother Sonny —

“It’s not personal… it’s just business.”

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The Miles Davis Movie: Don Cheadle, trumpet player

miles-davis-45 I found this Asha Brodie interview with Vincent Wilburn Jr., nephew of Miles Davis (Miles Davis Properties), from March 2007 that had originally appeared on Jazzreview.com a month prior.

It’s a good interview, and when they get around to discussing the movie Wilburn Jr. seems pretty upbeat – especially about Don Cheadle in the lead role.

Wilburn Jr.: “I specifically wanted Don for the role. I had seen him act in the movie “Rush Hour” and I liked his bone structure and the way he was slim like Miles. I couldn’t get him out of my head for the
role of Miles.”

But the part I found most enlightening from the Q&A was learning that Cheadle has (had) been attending trumpet school, and according to Wilburn, “…learning the instrument to master his role.”

He remarked that, “Don is at the eleventh grade on the trumpet,” so I can only assume that by now Cheadle has made it through twelfth grade and graduated with trumpet honors.

This interview is more than a year old, so we’re not sure if Cheadle went on to Trumpet College for further study of the craft. Either way, I applaud the dedication in tackling the role of Miles Davis.

He has to become Miles Davis, and playing the trumpet – even they way he holds the damn thing! – is a vital part of the puzzle.

As I’ve said before, I think the musical performances in the biopic are essential and might be the moments that give the film its ‘wow’ factor.

When I think of the movie “Ray,” a film I admire very much, what springs to mind are the scenes when Jamie Foxx, as Ray Charles, is performing; be it in a smoky club, or in front of thousands, it’s the scenes where Ray performs those classic songs I always gravitate to first.

I’d say the same thing holds true, for me, with films like “Walk the Line,” “The Buddy Holly Story” and “The Doors,” to cite a few.

Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles doing “Hit the Road Jack” is an example of this excitement. I’d like to think there will be numerous musical sequences in the biopic that are going to knock the audience for a loop, really bring to life the magic of Miles Davis, courtesy of the talented Mr. Cheadle.

Some might argue that a jazz song being performed by a group, not just as lovely background music to a scene, even a classic, may not translate well to the big screen – unlike any of the musical performances in “Ray,” which felt like a perfect fit.

I say phooey. Nonsense! It will look and feel and sound just fine. It’s Miles Davis!

When the audience sees Don Cheadle playing the horn in the role of Miles Davis — it’s going to bring down the house and get everyone…jazzed!

I am confident Cheadle is going to deliver a complete and memorable performance, but I have a good feeling it will be the scenes when he’s playing the trumpet – as Miles Davis – where the actor’s talent will shine the brightest.

The Miles Davis Movie: Will/Should ‘Miles Davis’ premier at Cannes?

With the 2009Festival de Cannes set for May 13-24, is it possible the Miles Davis biopic could make its debut in the south of France?

This is pure conjecture, but it makes more sense by the minute, especially when you consider the unique relationship between the jazz legend and the country.

Miles Davis’ adventures in France are well documented in books and magazine articles and on various musical recordings, so I won’t delve too deep into the specifics.

I will, however, point out two Miles Davis projects I enjoy, both with a decidedly French twist.

The first being the album “Miles Davis in Europe,” which was recorded live in France at the Festival Mondial, du Jazz Antibes Miles Davis in 1963. Alongside tenor saxophonist George Coleman, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams the album is wonderful; my favorite track is the ballad “I Thought About You.”

The second item is film-related. It’s 1957 and Miles Davis has ventured off to France for a tour and recorded the soundtrack for the film “Ascenseur pour l’Echafaud” — otherwise known as “Elevator to the Gallows,” directed by Louis Malle and starring Jeanne Moreau.

In doing some research I happened upon what seems to be an academic study about Miles Davis, Louis Malle and Ascenseur pour l’Echafaud titled “A Jazz Film of Collaborative Integrity.”

Based on the URL it appears to be from Cornell University, but I am unsure of the date. There is a video component so it cannot be too old.

The essay provides some wonderful information about Davis’ involvement with the film, including this snippet of conversation Davis shared with friend Quincy Troupe about his time in France.

Then I went to Paris again to play as a guest soloist for a few weeks. And it was during this trip that I met French filmmaker Louis Malle through Juliette Greco. He Told me he had always loved my music and that he wanted me to write the musical score for his new film, L’Ascenseur pour l’echafaud. I agreed to do it and it was a great learning experience, because I had never written a music score for a film before. I would look at the rushes of the film and get musical ideas to write down. Since it was about a murder and was supposed to be a suspense movie, I used this old, gloomy, dark building where I had the musicians play.

I thought it would give the music atmosphere, and it did. …When I got back to New York in December 1957, I was ready to move forward with my music again. I asked Red to come back, and he did. When I heard Monk’s gig at Five Spot was ending, I called Trane and told him I wanted him back, and he said, “Okay.” Man, when this happened, I knew some real great musical shit was about to go down; I could feel it in my bones. And it happened. It went all the way down. (Troupe, 217-222.)

While researching photos I ran across this image – a statue of Miles Davis by by Niki de Saint-Phalle outside the Hotel Negresco (on the Promenade des Anglais on the Baie des Anges) in Nice, France.

Miles Davis had a special relationship with France and is, no doubt, part of the country’s musical and artistic foundation.

The thought of a Miles Davis biopic premiering in Cannes feels right. It feels like an event!

I have no idea when the film will be completed, but wouldn’t it just be wonderful if the Miles Davis biopic were to debut in the French Riviera at the glitzy Cannes Film Festival?

I think the ol’ jazz legend would get a big thrill out of it….

The Miles Davis Movie: Who’s producing? Part II: The Cary Brokaw factor

Each of the producers I listed in the post prior is integral in bringing to life the story of Miles Davis, but I’ve decided to focus a quick write-up on Cary Brokaw.

I do not know Brokaw personally, but I am familiar with his work. That said here are five reasons why I feel good about the final product of the Miles Davis movie.

Closer (2004)
Angels in America (2003)
Wit (2001)
Short Cuts (1993)
The Player (1992)

Five different TV and film projects, each of which I am fond of. “Drugstore Cowboy” was also pretty darn good.

I’m sure not every project from Brokaw (and Avenue Pictures) is a critical success and box office hit, but as a producer his hands have been in the cookie jars of some excellent and varied projects.

Let’s add the Miles Davis biopic to the list.

Brokaw also seems to be the most senior of the producers in the producing sextet, so he knows the ropes as the project progresses. But it’s a team effort throughout.

I think about the storytelling and scale of “Angels in America,” the austere sexiness of “Closer,” the dark humor of “The Player” or the imaginative narrative style of “Short Cuts,” and I get a positive vibe about the large helping of experience (from each of the producers and the entire team) injected into the making of the Miles Davis biopic.

The five titles I chose differ in cinematic style, yet each poignant in their ‘own special way.’

Yes, I just used the title of a fine Genesis song from 1977’s Wind & Wuthering – “Your Own Special Way.”

When you write with the iPod on, the music will find itself into the text. It will…

While I extol Brokaw based on the titles linked with his name, the objective of this post is not to put him above reproach.

But in the context of the making of the Miles Davis biopic, I am pleased in the knowing that Brokaw is part of the team, like the crafty veteran brought aboard to bat third, teach the players about appreciating the game and ultimately steer the gang to success.

Cary Brokaw is Crash Davis.

The Miles Davis Movie: Who’s producing?

According to Hollywood.com the Miles Davis biopic has six producers:

Cary Brokaw
Kay Liberman
Lenore Zerman
Vince Wilburn Jr
Darryl Porter
Don Cheadle

Vince Wilburn Jr. is Davis’ nephew and part of Miles Davis Properties, a business collective that oversees all things Miles Davis – clothing, artwork, music, etc.

You can add motion picture to that list.

Darryl Porter was hired in ’06 to run the Miles Davis estate, and he’s presently the General Manager of Miles Davis Properties.

Making up the producing trio from Crescendo Productions are…

Lenore Zerman — credited as a producer on last year’s documentary “Darfur Now.”

Kay Liberman — exec producing “Traitor” with Don Cheadle and Guy Pearce starring.

And of course… Don Cheadle. Producing credits include “Crash” (TV), “Traitor,” “Darfur Now,” “Talk to Me” and “Crash.”

And last, but certainly not least, is Cary Brokaw, representing Avenue Pictures in the producing sextet. Remember it was Brokaw, according to some reports, that helped lock up the rights to much of Davis’ Columbia Records catalog, setting the stage to greenlight the Miles Davis movie project.

I have a Cary Brokaw post coming shortly….

So there you have it – the dream team behind the Miles Davis biopic.

If you look up film producer on Wikipedia it starts out like this:

A film producer is a person who creates the conditions for making movies.

The producer initiates, coordinates, supervises and controls matters such as fundraising, hiring key personnel, and arranging for distributors. The producer is involved throughout all phases of the filmmaking process from development to completion of a project.

That has tall order written all over, yet the producer is vital in seeing the film project through from point A to point B, ‘B’ being my local movie theatre.

When I think of a producer I literally think of “The Producer’s,” the hilarious 1968 Mel Brooks movie w/ Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel and the 2005 Broadway version w/ Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Sure, it was producing for Broadway, but still…

Actually, when I think about TV and film producers names like Scott Rudin, Brian Grazer, Lawrence Bender, J. J. Abrams, Judd Apatow, Robert Evans, Harvey Weinstein, George Lucas, Joel Silver and Albert R. Broccoli come to mind.

There’s plenty more, but I allowed myself a few minutes to make a list, and I had to stop somewhere.

In the end, I have high hopes for the team behind the Miles Davis movie.

What an exciting and privileged position to be in; they have their hands on the story of one of the greatest figures in jazz (and I’ll add ‘music,’ in general) history that is ticketed for the big screen.

I feel cinematic greatness upon us. It’s this sextet, with a drop of extra emphasis on Mr. Cheadle, that will play a big part in leading us there.

The Miles Davis Movie: What about costume design? or: let’s talk fashion!

Miles Davis was cool. Miles Davis is cool.

The music he created is always top of the list, but damn if he doesn’t also look stylish playing it.

The music, the fashion, the attitude… the guy personified the meaning of what being cool is about. While some might prefer his suit-style of the ’50s and ’60s and others the flashy wardrobe of the ’70s and ’80s, Miles Davis remained a fashion icon throughout.

For me, it’s Miles Davis in the three-button Brooks Brothers suit I enjoy best.

I read recently in GQ (profiling the 50 Most Stylish Men of the
Last 50 Years!) that for those suits he had a tailor create his special look; ‘jackets cut in one piece, with only two seams-under the sleeves and down the jacket sides – no chest pocket or padding in the shoulders, and notch lapels that rolled down to a single button.’

For the Miles Davis biopic I think it’s safe to say the costume design will be an important element to keep an eye on.

I always hear about actors who say that when they step into the wardrobe of their character (especially it’s a real person) it helps to tie-in the role their playing.

For all the nuance and behavior Don Cheadle has to channel for his portrayal of Miles Davis, he will also have to dress the part, as it were, to complete the ‘character.’

Fashion and film have always been good bedfellows, probably more so now than ever before, and any design element of a movie (set, lighting, costume, etc.) gets extra attention depending on the largesse of the production.

But it’s the clothes! The glamour! The style! The magazine covers!

The Miles Davis biopic should be well-stocked with fashionable people and stylish wardrobes – adding some pizazz sure to catch the gaze of fashionistas and cool-hunters.

Of course the clothes can only go so far; it’s up to Cheadle to bring the character to life, which I have no doubt he will.

But, the costume designers are most definitely part of the storytelling process and their creativity can have a real impact on a film.

This is not to say the wardrobe is going to overwhelm the project as is the case with numerous movies (I’m looking at you “Sex and the City”), but it will be a central component in presenting the full detail of the man and the diverse eras of which he lived.

The Miles Davis Movie: Should Don Cheadle Be Working On This Pose?

What? It’s a legitimate question. It’s a classic image of Miles Davis. Everywhere you look there’s the unforgettable shot of Miles, leg slung over the folding chair, cigarette in hand – contemplating Lord knows what…

If anyone knows the origins of the photo please chime in as I’d like to know. It must be from some recording session. Kind of Blue?

Regardless, it’s a classic shot of the master. Which makes me wonder how Cheadle is preparing to become the ‘character’ that is Miles Davis.

I’m always fascinated with actors who portray real people, which I imagine is a bit tougher than a fictional character where they are free to add as much depth and style (or lack thereof) to the role as they please.

Some of the finest film roles have been of actors playing a real person – famous, infamous, celebrated, notorious, etc… etc…

I think of George C. Scott in “Patton,” Jamie Foxx in “Ray,” Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig in “Pride of the Yankees” and Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta in “Raging Bull.”

The list goes on and on.

And so it pleases me that Miles Davis will finally get the big screen treatment, and that Don Cheadle will be the actor forever associated with what is no doubt a career-defining role.

The Miles Davis Movie: What will the movie logo look like?

Let me first say that this post/question is inspired from a post I read today on the always informative/entertaining movie website First Showing.

They have news (big news in some circles) abut the launch of the logo and website for the forthcoming Sony film “The Green Hornet,” set to be adapted by Mr. “Knocked Up” himself, Seth Rogen.

The film is not slated to even be released until 2010 and already the Sony buzz machine is starting to crank up. Thank goodness we don’t have to wait until 2010 for the Miles Davis biopic (I hope…), but hey, let’s talk logo!

I’ll save the website post for later. It’s going to be a big one!

So logos… The text or picture that is going to be seen everywhere there is room to market, brand, advertise, etc.

What’s it going to be? My first thought is the Miles Davis signature we see on a host of t-shirts, hats and assorted merchandise.

Then again maybe a photo of Miles is better. I’m partial to the ‘pose’ from the Jack Johnson LP cover, and even the silhouette version might be nice.

This stuff is important, people! The marketing behind this flick is going to be pivotal (isn’t it always!!), and it’s a topic I plan to delve into later on. I’m no marketing guru, but I, like just about all fans of arts and entertainment, know what we like/want/need.

I have already said for the one-sheet teaser to just have the words ‘Miles Davis’ written out in white on a black background, so I am all about building the buzz, creating that anticipation before anything substantial is revealed.

When that teaser trailer hits theatres I want my heart to skip a beat. I want to sit up and grin as wide as possible knowing the film is headed our way.

Right after that green band (or will it be red band?) graphic that tells me “The following preview has been approved for all audiences by the Motion Picture Association of America,” I want to see a black screen followed by the sound of a trumpet accompanying – an image? a logo? a photograph?

I don’t know, but I’ll be ready to drink up that first trailer in all its glory when it hits the ‘Net and the movie houses.

I’m excited just thinking about. It’s going to be the Birth of the Cool all over again. There’s going to be a lot of Miles Davis-y news and feature stories in magazines and newspapers and on the ‘Net when the run up to the premier gets started — and that’s all good as far as I am concerned.

All sorts of opinions and analysis will hit the media grid and Miles Davis will front row on the pop culture rollercoaster; old records discussed, notorious moments from the past resurrected for debate, former friends and colleagues trotted out to speak about the man, critics discussing his status in the jazz pantheon, the expected surge in digital music sales, the customary razzle-dazzle articles on the front pages of the Sunday arts and entertainments section in newspapers everywhere and so on and so forth.

There Will Be Buzz.

How big remains to be seen, but I think people will be hearing a lot (more) of Miles Davis next year.

I admit to jumping the gun with all this, but the fact remains that there’s a Miles Davis movie in the works (finally!) and that’s cause for rejoicing.

The Miles Davis Movie: When is the best time to release the film?

The question of release dates is probably best answered by people in the film biz, preferably movie execs, marketing gurus and distribution folks, but I’m nevertheless curious – especially when it comes to a film I am highly (highly) anticipating.

I’ll just come right out and say that a Miles Davis biopic does not scream summer to me.

Call me crazy, but it feels like fall to me.

And with the Don Cheadle-as-Miles Davis part of the equation, you can definitely count on the film to hit Oscar’s radar, so fall (October/November) might be aces for a release date.

Hey, they might release the movie in February, so really – what do I know?

Whenever the film does hit theatres, I am predicting a lot of press, a lot of Oscar buzz and, happily, plenty of feature stories on Miles Davis and his music.

Of course, I do not believe there’s a distribution deal in place at this time, but I’m going on the assumption it won’t be too difficult to find a suitor.

The thing is, without knowing budgets and other matters of the production, I really don’t know whether the Miles Davis biopic is going to be a big-budget operation or an indie-pic that winds up at Sundance.

Update: I just read some old news clips and it seems as if the film will be independently financed – however, a studio might join the party down the road.

I have thought about the film as both a glossy Hollywood film and an independent-style project, and I can see the movie ‘working’ in both respects. But I will say that my preference is somewhere down the middle.

Whatever that means….

The Miles Davis Movie: Who is going to play John Coltrane?

A film like “Ray” featured other, notable figures that orbited around the great artist’s life, and Lord knows Miles Davis was connected to a host of celebrated musicians and other folks of distinction (good and bad), so there should no doubt be a long list of supporting roles that will be vital in the biopic.

So… who should play John Coltrane?

I mention Coltrane because I like John Coltrane. Feel free to offer actor and actress suggestions for other roles sure to be spotlighted in the Miles Davis movie.

I guess they could ask Forrest Whitaker to reprise his role as Charlie Parker, but maybe that’s a bit trite.

They could go the unknown route and cast someone we’ve never heard of, which I guess would be fine as I am not expecting the cast to be start-studded from top to bottom. It’s not “Ocean’s 11.”

Off the top of my head I like the actors Isaiah Washington, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mekhi Phifer and Delroy Lindo – but I don’t know if any of them scream John Coltrane. I’m sure I’m forgetting many others, but I’m just riffin’ here.

What about Harry J. Lennix? I know, it’s enough already with the “Ray” movie!

He is a good actor, though. I’m a fan.

Look, the John Coltrane character might only be on screen for 5 minutes, but it’s still an important part!

And whether or not musicians from the First and Second Great Quintets (besides Coltrane) will be featured prominently remains to be seen, yet one would have to imagine the likes of Charlie Parker, George Avakian, Gil Evans and Cicely Tyson would need to make an appearance in any biopic of Miles Davis.

They decided to have Larenz Tate play Quincy Jones in “Ray,” so clearly finding a John Coltrane isn’t impossible.

I’ll be interested to see if any notable talent attachments pop up in the news, or maybe it’s still too early in the process. Or, perhaps, the producers plan to keep it stocked with unknowns, leaving Cheadle as the A-lister.

The Miles Davis Movie: Is Don Cheadle the right person to direct the film?

It’s going to be challenging enough for Don Cheadle to transform into the mind, body and soul of one of the most important figures in jazz music history… let alone direct the movie.

But I have always felt good about Cheadle as not only the star, but also the director. He’s producing as well, to complete the talent/stress tri-fecta.

That he wants to star and direct tells me he has a vision, a passion for the subject and all its nuances. He could easily just have shepherded the project as producer and star, but he clearly knows what he wants by placing himself into the directors’ chair. I consider this a good sign.

I think we can all be comfortable with Cheadle’s skill as an actor and his approach to the role of Miles Davis, but the biopic will mark his directorial debut. Does this cause anyone to worry?

Like I said, I feel good about Cheadle in the big chair, steering the film from start to finish – but it’s always makes for good conversation to think about what if…

So I’d like to throw out this query, which I ask under the assumption we’re all confident Cheadle will do a superb job:

Which director (besides Don Cheadle) would you most like to see direct the Miles Davis biopic?

This is meant as a fun exercise in conjecture because there are so many wonderful directors on the scene, each of whom would bring their respective ‘style’ to the endeavor.

It’s funny because once I think of a director, let’s say, Michael Mann, I automatically visualize some of his work and quickly try to imagine how that would translate to a Miles Davis movie.

It’s not as if Cheadle has directed 10 other films, so we have nothing to analyze. So perhaps going into the film with no preconceived notions about the director might work out as anadvantage.

We all have our own hopes for how the movie will look and feel, but it will be Cheadle making the final decisions, choosing what direction to take the audience, creating the visual and emotional foundation for which to build his story of the great Miles Davis.

I close my eyes and think about various scenes that might work in the movie. I think about the costumes and set design. Who is going to be the cinematographer?

Or how about the opening credits sequence? That’s an art form right there. Speaking of amazing title sequences, I highly recommend checking out Art of the Title, which spotlights some of the very best examples of opening sequences and end titles in TV and film history. It’s a cool site, and trust me when I say you’ll be looking at a lot of footage.

So, directors. How about Spike Lee?

Did he ever seem like an obvious choice; having already directed “Mo Better Blues” and the amazing biopic of Malcolm X. I like Lee’s work – not everything is great, but he has made some terrific movies. He’s shown he can vary his style from cool indie (“She’s Gotta Have It”) to mainstream Hollywood (“Inside Man”), so I’d be curious to see how he’d handle another biopic such as this.

I’d be most interested to see how he’d shoot the performance scenes, which I think are crucial to the heart of the film. When the movie is about a performer, the scenes when they’re ‘performing’ have to knock you for a loop. Even if it’s Miles playing a ballad, the ‘wow’ factor must be dialed up.

I think about Steven Soderbergh and Paul Thomas Anderson. How might they tell the story of Miles Davis? Would Spike Jonze just go too quirky for the subject matter? Maybe he’d be good for a film about Thelonious Monk.

Is Ridley Scott too “Blade Runner” and “Gladiator” for a subject like Miles Davis?

I arrive back to Michael Mann; that scene from “Collateral” in the jazz club. He’d be at the top of my list, I think. He appears to me as someone who gets it.

I could go on and on about different directors, but I’m still quite confident that Cheadle is bursting with ideas for the biopic, ready to produce something special — for fans of Miles Davis and just fans of good movies….

The Miles Davis Movie: What should the movie title be?

I’ve read on the ‘net that the film is tentatively titled “Miles Davis.”

For me, that’s fine. Even “Miles” is just as commanding. Yes, it recalls “Ray,” but that worked out just fine.

And then there’s “Bird,” also a great movie title that says it all.

Jazz-related films like “The Glenn Miller Story” and “Young Man with a Horn” seem pretty par for the course, and “Round Midnight” is cool for just about anything – so that clearly worked for a film about jazz.

“Mo Better Blues” has a jazz-cat feel, very inside baseball, but I love it.

Much has been written about the importance of a film’s title.

“The Shawshank Redemption” is one of my favorite films, but my goodness that title did not help to sell the movie when it first debuted. I agree that moviegoers should be willing to look past a mediocre title when inquiring about a film, but the movie business is about marketing, primarily to as many people as possible.

Hey, a movie might be awful, but the title is great, so it’s a fine line.

Using song titles is a popular tradition in Hollywood, and for sure there are some Miles Davis tunes that might work as the title of the biopic.

Perhaps the very best way to promote the film is simply to call it “Miles Davis.” The name alone elicits a wide assortment of opinions and feelings.

That said:

What should be the title of the Miles Davis movie?

I already mentioned in the post about the movie poster that I think the words Miles Davis in white, centered on a black background would be striking. I’d like to have that! But perhaps I’m missing something. Maybe I’m not seeing the big picture in terms of what title might best represent the film.

The Movie Marketing Update and Movie Market Madness are good sources for all things ‘movie marketing,’ maybe they’d like to weigh in.

With any Hollywood or indie movie, promotion is vital, and I’ll be quite interested to see what the team behind the Miles Davis biopic comes up with in their marketing strategy for the film – starting with the title.

The Miles Davis Movie: What should the movie poster look like?

I know I’m jumping the gun, but it’s still fun to think about what the movie posters might look like for the Miles Davis biopic.

In most cases a teaser one-sheet will circulate to start the hype machine, which is then followed by a variety of movie poster styles that provides more meaning to the story, characters, etc…

An early one-sheet I’ve thought about for the biopic is a black poster with the words “Miles Davis” in white lettering positioned in the middle. When I close my eyes I just think it looks cool. Yes, at times, I’m a minimalist.

Even a picture of a trumpet (illustrated, perhaps) over a single-colored background might be nice.

I guess the popular movie poster for “Ray” somewhat takes this simple, yet effective style.

For me, Saul Bass was a genius of design, and his motion picture title sequences and movie poster artwork is simply brilliant, providing some of Hollywood’s most unforgettable cinematic images.

I’m a big (big) fan of Bass’ work, and his style would definitely serve the Miles Davis film right. Two of my favorite Bass designs are for the films “Anatomy of A Murder” and “Love in the Afternoon.”

I doubt the marketing team will opt for the style Spike Lee chose for his jazz-themed film, “Mo Better Blues” (a film I love, and a movie poster I have framed, which has been with me since college). I still submit that “Mo Better Blues” is one of Spike Lee’s better films, and the music is great.

Without knowing a darn thing, I just have a feeling the Miles Davis one-sheet will have a more serious ‘feel.’

In keeping with the theme of jazz-related movies and their posters, I can’t say I love the one-sheet for “Round Midnight.”

But I do like “Bird.” It’s not perfect, but almost. Actually, that bird in the upper left (is that a dove?) is driving me crazy. I’d lose it. Still, it’s a nice poster.

And then there’s “Kansas City.” I love Altman, but this is not one of my favorites. The music is really good, however. Jennifer Jason Leigh looks so funny (to me) in the poster. I know she’s supposed to be tough, but it looks awkward.

Now that I’m looking at the “Bird” one-sheet, I’m thinking one version of a movie poster for the Davis project could be to incorporate the classic Miles pose seen on the cover of The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions.

That wouldn’t be too shabby. I wonder if Don Cheadle has been working on that pose?

So, for my original question – What should the movie poster look like? – I’d be interested to hear what, not only a Miles Davis fan has to say, but also from people in movie marketing, ad folks, people who read BrandWeek, design enthusiasts and so on.

I bet we could come up with a great collection of ideas for a Miles Davis movie poster. All I know is, I can’t wait to get my hands on one….

The Miles Davis Movie: What songs ‘must’ be featured?

From various reports we know that Producer Cary Brokaw reached out to former Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman John Calley to lock up the rights to much of Davis’ Columbia Records catalogue (now owned by Sony BMG), so it looks like the biopic should be loaded with classic tunes.

Now we can start to ponder over what songs must/should be featured in the film. I’m sure there will be plenty of performance sequences as well as montages (maybe), to spotlight the music.

Then there’s the film score, which I am very curious to see what the producing team has in mind. Would they consider a jazz artist(s) to handle writing the compositions, or are we talking full blown orchestration, etc?

If it were up to me I’d be on the phone with Wynton Marsalis to gauge his musical interest.

But back to the question at hand: what songs are a must to be featured in the movie?

I’ll drop 6 that come to mind right now that I think should surely be in the film:

“Summertime” (Porgy and Bess)
“All Blues” (Kind of Blue)
“Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” (Sketches of Spain)
“My Funny Valentine” (My Funny Valentine)
“Blues for Pablo” (Miles Ahead)
“Agitation” (E.S.P.)

I didn’t exactly go crazy with my picks, but they are personal favorites, so it’s a start. There’s so much great music to choose from, and I’m sure song selection will be key to really give the film its heart and soul. Without knowing the structure of the movie it’s tough to know how long they plan to spend in each of Davis’ classic periods of musical output.

— Because jazz music is not exactly a style of music captivating audiences right now (or at least the attention of the greater marketplace), as compared to top 40, pop, rap, etc…, it will be interesting to see how the film is presented to its intended audience.

Even a casual music fan probably has heard of Miles Davis, and his music grabs the attention of younger listeners all the time (record sales aren’t too shabby either), but the subject is not Ray Charles, or Elvis and Johnny Cash, (which I think many would say is more accessible, even though I don’t agree), so I’m curious to know how the producers will market the film, where the focus will be. Is jazz music too ‘inside’ for a big, Hollywood movie? Then again, this might be minor-big, Hollywood movie in scale – I have no idea about budgets, etc…

I don’t know if jazz films like “Round Midnight,” “Bird” and “Kansas City” can be described as blockbuster-type films (not that they were intended to be). Even “Mo’ Better Blues,” with it’s star talent and director, isn’t like an “Iron Man.” Those films all definitely have a specific tenor, which I think work quite well.

But “Ray” is a BIG movie. As was “Walk the Line.” So the issue is whether or not the Miles Davis biopic is going to be like “Ray” or like “Bird.” Do fans have a preference?

Oh boy, I have gone on off-topic. More on all ‘that’ later…

In the end, it’s fun to start thinking about how some of Miles Davis’ best-loved songs (and maybe, hopefully some hidden gems) will look/feel/sound on the big screen.

The Miles Davis Movie: Is Don Cheadle the right choice to play Miles Davis?

cheadle_miles_getty_2601 From the very start, when Don Cheadle was announced as the actor to portray Miles Davis (as well as its director) in the biopic, I have been on board with my support.

Let’s face it: this is a big deal for fans of Miles Davis who have been waiting for a big screen movie bio about the jazz legend. With recent films like “Walk the Line” and “Ray” becoming huge hits, in theaters and with critics, biopics are big business these days, so I’m sure plenty of movie lovers (as well as the critics) will be intrigued by this movie about such a fascinating figure that’s part of our entertainment and cultural history.

I’m sure the idea for a film has been discussed for ages, but now it’s happening and Don Cheadle is going to be the actor to make Miles come to life.

As a fan of Cheadle, particularly for roles in “Devil in a Blue Dress,” “Out of Sight” and “Traffic,” I have a feeling he will do the jazz legend justice in portraying his many moods, his many levels of genius. From afar it seems like a tough role to pin down – but that’s why some of these actors get paid the big bucks.

Jamie Foxx did a wonderful job as Ray Charles, and I can’t imagine those were easy shoes to slip into for the cameras.

At this moment I cannot think of an actor, not accounting for some multi-talented newcomer who might be perfect for the part but only casting directors know about, who would be a better fit to play the role of Miles Davis.

So I ask: Is Don Cheadle the best actor for the role, or did you have someone else in mind?

I’m anxious to see how Cheadle handles the performance sequences, as a director and actor, wondering how he intends to capture the subtlety and style of Miles Davis performing on stage.

I would love to know how Cheadle plans to ‘come after’ the story –

Where will he begin the narrative?
What kind of tone?
What are the central themes?
What segments of Davis’ career (be-bop, modal, fusion) will get the most attention?
Who is going to play John Coltrane?!

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of news out there regarding the production, but I’ll keep my eyes open. I have high expectations for what could be a fantastic movie experience.

I think it’s a tall order to make a Miles Davis biopic ‘work,’ but I feel good about Cheadle and this cinematic endeavor he has chosen – it’s sure to be something special.