The Miles Davis Movie: Acting! or: Find your inner Miles Davis

Taking a cue from this recent Ann Powers article (Actors go to great lengths to embody musicians in biopics), I decided to revisit an older post concerning Don Cheadle’s preparation for his portrayal of Miles Davis. I don’t know what ‘method,’ if any, or other related thespian tools Cheadle uses to find the ‘character’ when he preps for a new movie, but it should be quite a task readying to play the Prince of Darkness.

I’m using the same photo, because I love it so much. I also asked, jokingly, whether or not Cheadle should be practicing this particular pose because the image is so iconic in the legacy of Miles Davis.

Though the biopic is not going to adhere to traditional narrative (so says Cheadle), we can only assume Cheadle is still going to play Miles Davis as close to the real thing as possible—unless they plan to cast six different actors, ala “I’m Not There,” to represent a different phase of Davis’ life and work.

From the onset of this web project I have used “Ray” as my go-to film in finding some kind of correlation as to how the Miles Davis biopic might function – with narrative, style, etc. But now that we know Cheadle is set for a more non-traditional biopic, I’ve decided to use Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There as my parallel to the biopic, simply because it qualifies perfectly as a non-traditional storyline about a famous musician and personality. I could stay in the jazz realm and go with “Bird” or “Lady Sings the Blues” but those remain in the conventional (albeit tweaked) file.

I tend to run hot and cold on the debate about what constitutes good acting versus bad; I guess you know either when you see it. I tend to think it’s not really about skill nowadays (in most cases) as it is marketing potential. The entertainment industry is lucky to have the ‘talented’ actors they do today, and Don Cheadle is on that list.

Even with an un-Hollywood approach to telling the Miles Davis story on the drawing board, it doesn’t diminish the challenge of portraying such a legendary figure in music and culture. I remain confident Cheadle is the man for the part and that it will be, in the end, a career-defining role.

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