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….

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Jeff loves music. He also loves band t-shirts, which has become something of an obsession. There's a vintage Roxy Music t-shirt on eBay for $299 he is absolutely going to get when he starts making the big bucks.

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