In an interview with Ed Potton in the Times of London, Don Cheadle not only mentions his plans to direct and star in the Miles Davis Biopic, but he also reinforces his decision to produce a film that does not follow the ‘Hollywood’ blueprint for biopics.
His pet project is a biopic of his childhood hero Miles Davis (see lists), which he plans to both direct and star in.“I didn’t want to do anything that resembled the biopics I’d seen. I want it to be relevant today, not a history lesson.”
I was unaware that Miles Davis was a childhood hero of Cheadle’s, or really just how much he cared about the jazz legend.
Asked about some of his favorite musicians, Cheadle had this to say about Davis:
I’ve loved him since fifth grade, when I started playing saxophone and my parents had his Porgy & Bess album. Very young I was just taken with the music. I was a student of it very early, and that’s just sort of never waned. A lot of people think they know a lot about Miles but they only know the name and the image, the iconography. You say: “Miles Davis” to most people and they go: “Yeah, jazz! He played sax or he played something, right?”
They don’t really know, and that’s fine. I wanted to make a movie for the people who didn’t know about Miles Davis, so they could just enjoy the movie and the music.
A movie for people who don’t know about Miles Davis. I can appreciate that. But do those people want experimental cinema, or do they want “Ray,” but instead of Ray Charles it’s the story of Miles Davis?
His comment brings up an interesting point about how best to show the life and times of Miles Davis in a feature film. To just ‘enjoy the movie and the music’ sounds to me like a recipe for traditional storytelling, yet we have heard the term deconstructed biopic associated with this project so it remains fuzzy which way Cheadle will take the narrative.
He could very well break the story into chapters, which weave in and out of Davis’ life. But without the proper context I’m not sure how someone who knows little or nothing about Davis can appreciate the scope of his life and music with this style of movie-making.
Although a script has been written – and rewritten – there isn’t any hard proof of where Cheadle is steering this project other than the comments he’s made this past year; mostly just reiterating his desire for something different than a traditional, cradle-to-grave storyline.
I’m on record as being fine either way, but I do think a traditional narrative might equal greater success with an audience not that familiar with Miles Davis. So much is still unknown about the scope of this biopic that all we really have is conjecture; whether or not the Miles Movie is a big studio deal, or an indie offering will go a long way in determining just how the story gets told.
I’m just glad he mentioned the movie. With all the Cheadle news these days centering on Iron Man 2 and his poker exploits, it’s mighty nice to see the Miles Davis Biopic get some pub. It remains a project in no hurry to get in front of cameras, but at least Cheadle is thinking about it, mulling over which way to take this very special movie project.
So even a brief goes a long way here and at Miles Davis Online. For now all we can do is speculate and continue asking the big questions – like who is going to play John Coltrane?