When all is said and done there’s going to quite a story to write about the saga of bringing the life of Miles Davis to the big screen. There’s been one project or another circling the development track for years; one example from way back in 1993 had reports of Wesley Snipes preparing to star as the jazz icon, and just a few years ago Quincy Troupe’s “Miles and Me” was the possible foundation for a film.
What we have right now, and what appears the best hope for a big-screen version of Miles’ life, is an “authorized” biopic with the blessing of the Miles Davis estate; reports of the biopic hit the news cycle in March 2007 with the story about Don Cheadle lining up future projects to produce and star in. It was reported that Cheadle would make the Davis biopic his feature directing debut and that Stephen J. Rivele and Chris Wilkinson were writing the screenplay.
Cheadle set up the projects through his Crescendo Prods. and is producing the biopic with Cary Brokaw and Vince Wilburn Jr. and Darryl Porter of Miles Davis Properties.
Perhaps the most critical element in all of this is Cheadle’s team securing music and life rights to the jazz legend’s story, which gives the undertaking the requisite gravitas to become the ‘official’ biopic of Miles Davis.
(Cheadle’s participation in “Iron Man 2” and “The Avengers,” among other projects, has added barriers to any real momentum toward getting production started on the biopic. This isn’t to say I’m not thrilled for Cheadle’s much-deserved roles in Hollywood blockbusters, or any movie he takes on, but the state of the Miles Davis biopic is what draws my interest, concern and allegiance.)
But two years later and the Miles Davis biopic continues in its comfortable status of in-development.
Needless to say the endeavor to get a film made about Miles Davis is creating quite the folklore.
I found a good post on Doug Ramsey’s Rifftides Blog from November 2006 called Miles Davis: The Movie?. Ramsey had some thoughts on the news of two, possible motion pictures that were being discussed for the Miles Davis story; one, the above-mentioned project based on Quincy Troupe’s memoir, which would go under the ‘unauthorized’ category, and the ‘authorized’ biopic from the estate, which we know today as the Don Cheadle project.
Three years later and still no movie. Progress has been made by virtue of a script floating around town somewhere and Cheadle offering up a few, subtle clues about his vision for the biopic, but any hope for a production start date is a ways off.
It’s been brought up before, and I’ve wondered as well, if the story of the Prince of Darkness is un-filmable. My stock answer is usually ‘no,’ but I’ll admit it’s definitely a tall order. But I have hope. I firmly believe Cheadle is the best actor to portray Miles Davis (a career-defining role in my opinion) and tell the story. He might be envisioning something non-traditional in how to ‘film’ that story, but I’m confident it’ll be special.
Back in ’06 Ramsey recalled an encounter with Miles Davis and then added this about the possibility of a biopic: “If there is a movie, I hope it includes that thoughtful facet of a complicated man.”
Here we are in 2009 and the “If” still rings as loud… as we wait.