The Miles Davis Movie: Who is going to play Charlie Parker?

Of course Charlie Parker will be in the film. How could he not be? His influence on Davis is significant and certainly well documented.

In 1944, the Billy Eckstine band visited St. Louis. Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker were members of the band, and Davis was taken on as third trumpet for a couple of weeks because of the illness of Buddy Anderson. (wikipedia)

Then there’s the story of Davis leaving Julliard to seek out Bird in and out of the clubs of New York City for a real education in music (and life, I would imagine).

Davis would later join Parker’s ‘unofficial’ quintet and play on many of Bird’s more notable bebop tracks that were pressed by labels like Savoy and Dial.

I cannot imagine a biopic about Miles Davis that doesn’t feature Parker. Now, who should play the legendary ‘Yardbird’?

Yes, Oscar-winner Forrest Whitaker tackled the role of Parker in Clint Eastwood’s poignant film about the troubled musician’s life, but that was in 1988. I’m not sure if reprising his role is a good idea.

Maybe they go the unknown route, which they might for any number of roles to be cast, but a ‘name’ actor can always bring a little extra pizzazz to the flick.

Is Mos Def available? What about Jeffrey Wright? Neither has the physical heft of Parker, but it’s a movie – they can do anything.

Terence Howard? I like Mekhi Phifer as well. What about Delroy Lindo? I always thought he was cool, and a good actor.

Hey, they could always get Robert Downey Jr. seeing as he’s playing the role of a black man in the forthcoming “Tropic Thunder,” which I’m excited to see this summer.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, but when the actor closely resembles the person they’re playing it definitely helps sell the role. Even though it was a throwaway part in “Ray,” I don’t recall Lorenz Tate looking that much like a young Quincy Jones, but it was fine, and I was able to go with it in a movie context.

Without any knowledge of how the biopic is going to be mapped out it’s difficult to know just how the story will unfold.

I mean… we ‘know’ the story, it’s just a matter of how the narrative will be presented over a 2-hour plus film.

But we know Bird is in. No way to avoid it. The question is who plays Bird?


2 thoughts on “The Miles Davis Movie: Who is going to play Charlie Parker?”

  1. My vote for Bird would be Wendell Pierce, a.k.a. Bunk Moreland from “The Wire.” He might have to lose a little weight for the part, but he could pull it off.

    However, Mr. Howard HAS to be the leader in the proverbial clubhouse for that part. Bonus points for being in a previous biopic (“Ray”) and who can forget his fine work as the young A.C. Cowlings in The made-for-trash-TV movie “The O.J. Simpson Story”???

    (Tongue firmly in cheek on that last line for those scoring at home.)

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