The Miles Davis Movie: Remember when Wesley Snipes was going to play Miles Davis?

That’s correct… the star of such Hollywood films like “New Jack City,” “Passenger 57,” “White Men Can’t Jump,” “Major League” and “Mo Better Blues” was close to adding the Miles Davis story to his acting resume.

It’s no big secret that a film version on the life of Miles Davis has been around the Hollywood track many times, with a rotating cast of producers, actors and writers involved, attempting to get the project off the ground.

Back in the late ‘90s it looked as if the project was about to hit full steam as word hit the street that Wesley Snipes was (finally) going to play the Prince of Darkness.

Here’s an excerpt from the November 1997 issue of Ebony Magazine:

Awesome on another level will be Snipes’ portrayal of the troubled jazz master Miles Davis. “Nobody else has the gall to even try to make it,” he says of his company’s commitment, adding that he’s been doing research on why many talented artists resort to some type of abuse and “what drives a person who is considered genius off the wall.

I used the word ‘finally’ above regarding the film because I found this snippet from a November 1993 issue of Jet Magazine:

Hot actor Wesley Snipes, who is thrilling audiences as a blond villain in Demolition Man, is set to bring to the big screen the life story of legendary jazz artist Miles Davis. Snipes is co-producing the project as well as starring in it, a spokesman told Jet. It is just getting underway and won’t be released until sometime in 1994.

“Demolition Man”! Are you kidding me?!

In November of 2006 Stereogum chimed in on the status of what was then dueling Miles Davis film projects; one based on author Quincy Troupe’s book Miles and Me, and the other with the blessing of the Miles Davis estate. This is when Don Cheadle’s name was beginning to get mentioned with the film.

Stereogum was kind of enough to include photos of Snipes and Davis buffering the jazz icon.

I like Wesley Snipes. The guy has been in a lot of movies – and many are very entertaining.

I thought he was great in the back-to-back Spike Lee movies; as saxophonist Shadow Henderson in “Mo Better Blues” (1990) and as architect Flipper Purify in “Jungle Fever” (’91).

“One Night Stand” was pretty good. “Blade” was cool. He was Willie Mays Hayes in “Major League” for crying out loud. And who can’t say they didn’t enjoy his Nino Brown in “New Jack City”?

But I just don’t see him as Miles Davis. Maybe I’m so comfortable with Cheadle in the lead role that the thought of another actor feels odd.

Yes, it has taken a long time for the life of Miles Davis to make it to the big screen, but maybe that’s the way it should be – lots of twists and turns. Much like the life of Miles Davis.

Just how close we came to a Miles Davis biopic starring Wesley Snipes I am not privy to knowing, but I can imagine there would be stark differences between that version and what Cheadle and company have in store.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Snipes project would have been cinema gold. We’ll never know.

But it’s interesting to think about just how close we were to having the guy who played Noxeema Jackson in “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” playing the role of jazz legend Miles Davis in the film version of his life.

That’s entertainment!


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