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? What about Delroy Lindo? I always thought he was cool, and a good actor.

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.

We know Bird is in. It might be for 35 seconds, but he’s in. No way to avoid it.

The question is who plays Bird?

Originally posted July 18, 2008 over at the miles davis movie


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