The Miles Davis Movie: Remember When Wesley Snipes Was Going To Play Miles Davis?

That’s correct… the star of such Hollywood films like “New Jack City,” “Passenger 57,” “White Men Can’t Jump,” “Major League” and “Mo Better Blues” was close to adding the Miles Davis story to his acting resume.

It’s no big secret that a film version on the life of Miles Davis has been around the Hollywood track many times, with a rotating cast of producers, actors and writers involved, all attempting to get the project off the ground.

Back in the late ‘90s it looked as if the biopic was about to hit full steam ahead as word hit the street that Wesley Snipes was (finally) going to play the Prince of Darkness.

Here’s an excerpt from the November 1997 issue of Ebony Magazine:

Awesome on another level will be Snipes’ portrayal of the troubled jazz master Miles Davis. “Nobody else has the gall to even try to make it,” he says of his company’s commitment, adding that he’s been doing research on why many talented artists resort to some type of abuse and “what drives a person who is considered genius off the wall.

I used the word ‘finally’ above regarding the film because I found this snippet from a November 1993 issue of Jet Magazine:

Hot actor Wesley Snipes, who is thrilling audiences as a blond villain in Demolition Man, is set to bring to the big screen the life story of legendary jazz artist Miles Davis. Snipes is co-producing the project as well as starring in it, a spokesman told Jet. It is just getting underway and won’t be released until sometime in 1994.

“Demolition Man”! Are you kidding me?!

In November of 2006 Stereogum chimed in on the status of what was then dueling Miles Davis film projects; one based on author Quincy Troupe’s book Miles and Me, and the other with the blessing of the Miles Davis estate. This is when Don Cheadle’s name was beginning to get mentioned with the film.

Stereogum was kind of enough to include photos of Snipes and Davis buffering the jazz icon.

I like Wesley Snipes. The guy has been in a lot of movies – and many are very entertaining.

I thought he was great in the back-to-back Spike Lee movies; as saxophonist Shadow Henderson in “Mo Better Blues” (’90) and as architect Flipper Purify in “Jungle Fever” (’91).

“One Night Stand” was pretty good. “Blade” was cool. He was Willie Mays Hayes in “Major League” for crying out loud. And who can’t say they didn’t enjoy his Nino Brown in “New Jack City”?

But I just don’t see him as Miles Davis. Maybe I’m so comfortable with Cheadle in the lead role that the thought of another actor feels odd.

Yes, it has taken a long time for the life of Miles Davis to make it to the big screen, but maybe that’s the way it should be – lots of twists and turns. Much like the life of Miles Davis.

Just how close we came to a Miles Davis biopic starring Wesley Snipes I am not privy to knowing, but I can imagine there would be stark differences between that version and what Cheadle and company have in store.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Snipes project would have been cinema gold. We’ll never know.

But it’s interesting to think about just how close we were to having the guy who played Noxeema Jackson in “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” playing the role of jazz legend Miles Davis in the film version of his life.

That’s entertainment!

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Miles Davis: A Friend Remembers

99 Photographer Anthony Barboza shares his memories of working with Miles Davis. Barboza met Miles Davis in 1971. The men would cross paths, both professionally and personally, in the years ahead, eventually becoming close friends.

One of many, many great quotes from Barboza about Miles:

“The next time I saw Miles was when I was walking with some models on the upper west side to Riverside Park to do a fashion shoot. As we walked down the street, Miles was standing outside by his gate. I went over to him and said, ‘Hey, Miles, I’m doing a shoot for an Essence spread.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry about the shoot, you can do it later, just invite the women in and we’ll have a party.’ I said, ‘Miles, I can’t do that, these women are getting paid by the hour.’ I had to leave him at the gate of his brownstone and go do the shoot…”

Happy Thanksgiving!

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The Miles Davis Movie: What Should The Movie Title Be?

If you check on IMDB it’s Untitled Miles Davis Biopic. Without knowing anything I can only assume the movie is going to be known as “Miles Davis.”

For me, that’s fine. Even “Miles” is just as commanding. Yes, it recalls “Ray,” but that worked out just fine. And then there’s “Bird,” also a great movie title that says it all.

Jazz-related films like “The Glenn Miller Story” and “Young Man with a Horn” seem pretty par for the course, and “Round Midnight” is cool for just about anything – so that clearly worked for a film about jazz.

“Mo Better Blues” has a jazz-cat feel, very inside baseball, but I love it.

Much has been written about the importance of a film’s title.

“The Shawshank Redemption” is one of my favorite films, but my goodness that title did not help to sell the movie when it first debuted. I agree that moviegoers should be willing to look past a mediocre title when inquiring about a film, but the movie business is about marketing, primarily to as many people as possible.

Hey, a movie might be awful, but the title is great, so it’s a fine line.

Using song titles is a popular tradition in Hollywood, and for sure there are some Miles Davis tunes that might work as the title of the biopic.

Perhaps the very best way to promote the film is simply to call it “Miles Davis.” The name alone elicits a wide assortment of opinions and feelings.

That said: What should be the title of the Miles Davis movie?

I already mentioned in a post on the Biopic Blog about the movie poster that I think the words ‘Miles Davis’ in white, centered on a black background would be striking. I’d like to have that! But perhaps I’m missing something. Maybe I’m not seeing the big picture in terms of what title might best represent the film.

With any Hollywood or indie movie, promotion is vital, and I’ll be quite interested to see what the team behind the Miles Davis biopic comes up with in their marketing strategy for the film – starting with the title.

Miles Davis… Online

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* Miles Davis reigns supreme in jazz — but at what expense?

* We Want Miles: To coincide with 50th anniversary of “Kind of Blue”, and his first performance in France 60 years ago, Paris’s Cité de la Musique pays tribute to this most visionary of jazz musicians.

* Too many Miles?: The forward-looking musician still has us looking backwards, which only makes jazz seem more like a retrospective art form.

* Just Jazz Art: Walkin’

* Photo: Miles Davis Septet / Live In Vienna 1973

* Photo: Miles Davis mimics a junkie sax player for Arrigo Polillo, Milano 1964

Photograph: Kagen McLeod, Canwest News Service

The Miles Davis Movie: Herbie Hancock To Score Miles Davis Biopic

herbie20hancock Directly below this post we noted a recent interview that Erin Davis (Miles’ son) and Vince Wilburn Jr. (Miles’ nephew) did with YRB Magazine; Wilburn Jr. noted that a new writer, Steven Baigelman, is collaborating with Don Cheadle on an updated draft of the script.

Big news for followers (me) of the Miles Davis Biopic.

But in the very same interview, Wilburn Jr. also points out that Herbie Hancock is planning to score the movie. Wow. That’s kind of big news, in my opinion.

Here’s Wilburn Jr.’s exact quote: Yeah, Herbie Hancock’s going to score it and Don Cheadle’s directing and starring.

We’ve long known about Cheadle, but Hancock definitely adds some spice to the project.

((This post also appears on Miles Davis Online)

The Miles Davis Movie: New Screenwriter Working With Don Cheadle

script2 Although the Oscar-nominated screenwriting and producing duo Chris Wilkinson and Stephen J. Rivele are still listed on IMDB as part of the Untitled Miles Davis Biopic, Erin Davis (Davis’ son) and Vince Wilburn Jr. (Davis’ nephew), in a recent interview with YRB Magazine, reveals that a new writer, Steven Baigelman, is collaborating with Don Cheadle on a new draft of the script.

Said Wilburn Jr.:

We’re in the process of OK’ing the script with a new writer. Don didn’t like the other writer that was attached to the movie, so there’s a new writer named Steven Baigelman that Don’s writing with. Once is the script is OK’d by the family, then we go into production.

To say that I’m delighted to finally stumble across some ‘news’ about the project is an understatement. I still think we’re looking at 2011, but at least Cheadle and Co. are still firmly involved in pushing this cinematic endeavor forward.

(This post also appears on Miles Davis Online)

The Miles Davis Movie: Herbie Hancock To Score Miles Davis Biopic

herbie20hancock Directly below this post we noted a recent interview that Erin Davis (Miles’ son) and Vince Wilburn Jr. (Miles’ nephew) did with YRB Magazine; Wilburn Jr. said that a new writer, Steven Baigelman, is collaborating with Don Cheadle on an updated draft of the script.

Big news for followers (me) of the Miles Davis Biopic.

But in the very same interview, Wilburn Jr. also points out that Herbie Hancock is planning to score the movie. Wow. That’s kind of big news, in my opinion.

Here’s Wilburn Jr.’s exact quote: Yeah, Herbie Hancock’s going to score it and Don Cheadle’s directing and starring.

We’ve long known about Cheadle, but Hancock definitely adds some spice to the project.

(This post also appears on The Miles Davis Movie)

The Miles Davis Movie: New Screenwriter Working With Don Cheadle

script2 Although the Oscar-nominated screenwriting and producing duo Chris Wilkinson and Stephen J. Rivele are still listed on IMDB as part of the Untitled Miles Davis Biopic, Erin Davis (Davis’ son) and Vince Wilburn Jr. (Davis’ nephew), in a recent interview with YRB Magazine, reveals that a new writer, Steven Baigelman Steven Baigelman, is collaborating with Don Cheadle on an updated draft of the script.

Said Wilburn Jr.:

We’re in the process of OK’ing the script with a new writer. Don didn’t like the other writer that was attached to the movie, so there’s a new writer named Steven Baigelman that Don’s writing with. Once is the script is OK’d by the family, then we go into production.

To say that I’m delighted to finally stumble across some ‘news’ about the project is an understatement. I still think we’re looking at 2011, but at least Cheadle and Co. are still firmly involved in pushing this cinematic endeavor forward.

(This post also appears on The Miles Davis Movie)

The Complete Columbia Album Collection: Two Reviews!

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LA Times: The set affords listeners a welcome opportunity to explore intriguing but less-celebrated albums such as “Miles in Tokyo,” featuring Davis’ brief pairing with avant-garde saxophonist Sam Rivers in 1964, and the ahead-of-its-time ambient-funk explorations of 1972’s “On the Corner.”

New York Magazine: What makes this truly valuable, and not just another marketing trick to squeeze more money from a dead jazzman, is that Miles Davis was a perpetual pioneer who transformed the music four or five times in the course of his career. And so these discs lay out the evolution not only of Miles Davis but of modern jazz itself.

Hey, What’s Don Cheadle Doing?*

Variety: Brendan Gleeson is teaming up with Don Cheadle to star in helmer John Michael McDonagh’s “The Guard.” Pic follows an unorthodox Irish policeman who joins forces with a strait-laced FBI agent to take on an international drug smuggling gang in Ireland.

* when he’s not working on the Miles Davis Biopic

The Miles Davis Movie: Is Don Cheadle The Right Person To Direct The Movie?

It’s going to be challenging enough for Don Cheadle to transform into the mind, body and soul of one of the most important figures in jazz music history… let alone direct the movie.

But I have always felt good about Cheadle as not only the star, but also the director. He’s producing as well, to complete the talent/stress tri-fecta.

That he wants to star and direct tells me he has a vision, a passion for the subject and all its nuances. He could easily just have shepherded the project as producer and star, but he clearly knows what he wants by placing himself into the directors’ chair. I consider this a good sign.

I think we can all be comfortable with Cheadle’s skill as an actor and his approach to the role of Miles Davis, but the biopic will mark his directorial debut. Does this cause anyone to worry?

Like I said, I feel good about Cheadle in the big chair, steering the film from start to finish – but it’s always makes for good conversation to think about what if…

So I’d like to throw out this query, which I ask under the assumption we’re all confident Cheadle will do a superb job:

Which director (besides Don Cheadle) would you most like to see direct the Miles Davis Biopic?

Continue reading “The Miles Davis Movie: Is Don Cheadle The Right Person To Direct The Movie?”

Five Days Of Miles Davis Radio On SIRIUS XM

justmiles Way back when (May ’09) I said that Sirius XM Needs A Miles Davis Channel.

And while a 24-hour channel is still in the planning stages I hope, in the meantime Sirius XM is going to unveil Miles Davis Radio, a limited run channel dedicated to Miles for five days starting this Friday, November 20 at 3:00 pm ET and will run until Wednesday, November 25 on SIRIUS channel 72 and XM channel 70.

Miles Davis Radio, hosted by Davis’ son Erin Davis, his nephew drummer Vince Wilburn Jr. and legendary bassist Marcus Miller will feature music from Davis’ extensive catalog, which includes over one hundred albums. Listeners will hear composer and former Miles Davis music director Robert Irving III premiere never before heard soundtrack music recorded by Davis for the 1986 film Wise Guys.

The channel coincides with the November 24 release of Miles Davis: The Complete Columbia Album Collection, a deluxe 71 disc limited edition retrospective of the iconic music Davis created during his 30 years with Columbia Records.

But I’m still very serious about the 24-hour Miles Davis channel.

All Miles, All The Time.

Have a dedicated host who knows his Miles Davis (I’ll do it!). Bring in interesting guests. Cue up a deal with Miles Davis Properties to present rare tracks and concert recordings. Re-broadcast the Miles Davis Radio Project.

Play a lot of Miles Davis music and only Miles Davis music. Time to get crazy Sirius XM. Kudos for the limited run, but it’s time to get Miles — all the time!

The Miles Davis Movie: The Betty Year

“If Betty were singing today she be something like Madonna, something like Prince, only as a woman. She was the beginning of all that when she was singing as Betty Davis.” ~ Miles Davis, Miles: The Autobiography

I’m wondering if Betty (Mabry) Davis will make an appearance in the Miles Davis biopic… Let the casting suggestions begin immediately.

Their marriage only lasted a year (1968-1969), but it is common knowledge that Betty had a big influence on Miles, his music especially. And depending on whom you talk to this influence was not always positive.

Here’s a clip from a 2003 All About Jazz profile about the funk-a-licious model/musician:

Her cutting-edge musical tastes and incomparable sense of style were too much for Miles to resist. A self-righteous 23-year old model, Betty conquered the man twice her age with a potent mixture of youth, beauty, and sex. Within a year, she had completely remade Miles in her own youthful image.

As she poured herself into him, his playing grew younger, his outlook fresh. She ripped through his closets, tossing out the elegant suits he had worn for years. It was during this ‘Betty’ chapter that Miles felt the radical thrill of funk and rock – notably in the form of Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix.

It wouldn’t be long before he unleashed the revolutionary “Bitches Brew” on the world.

More from AAJ:

This monster he created would sadly run amok as fusion lost its soul and became an F word. But for a brief moment during these still glowing days of late ’60s Eden, Betty ruled as the mentor-muse for the original man and his music.

Then there’s that rumor about Miles breaking up with Betty because he suspected she was cheating on him – with Jimi Hendrix!

Apparently she’s denied this allegation ever since, but still… who can we get to play Jimi Hendrix for a quick scene or two?

Not knowing a thing about the story the writers are cooking up, they might not even get to the late ’60s in the film.

Is the year-long marriage to Betty even worth a few scenes? If the film works it way through the fusion years then I’d say yes. It was a pivotal era in the Miles Davis story and Betty was part of that story, even if short-lived.

The woman is such a funky diva, how could she not make a great character in the film?

Take a listen to her self-titled, ultra-funky debut and you’ll realize why this woman is a wild ball of fire.

Don’t forget, this is a woman deemed ‘too wild’ for Miles Davis, so that has to tell you something.

In his autobiography he wrote: “Betty was too young and wild for the things I expected from a woman…Betty was a free spirit, she was raunchy and all that kind of s**t.”

Whether or not Betty Davis appears in the film isn’t going to determine its ultimate success. The same could be said for Cicely Tyson and Frances Taylor – other notable women in Davis’ life.

Incorporating the women in Miles’ life is important if we desire a completist’s version of the Miles Davis story, yet with a biopic you’d figure to run about 2 hours (and change) it’s impossible to integrate everything of note, just as we don’t know what major themes the filmmakers plan to focus on.

(A film like “Malcolm X,” as was pointed out in the comments from Ed on the Biopic Blog, is a great example of a film that does hit just about all the major developments of that particular life, but I have a feeling the Miles Davis biopic is not going to run three hours – plus. Not that I’d mind… )

I will say that the ‘relationships’ Miles Davis had with women should not entirely be swept under the rug; I have no aspiration to extrapolate on the tospy-turvy personal life of Miles Davis, but needless to say it’s ripe with affecting moments any filmmaker developing a biopic of the man would be sure to make use of; only with an equal supply of dents and polish to the armor of an iconic figure can we have a genuine cinematic experience.

To wrap up this tangent I have floated off on…

Professor Robin D. G. Kelley’s commentary for the New York Times – Miles Davis: The Chameleon of Cool; A Jazz Genius In the Guise Of a Hustler – exposes ‘the two sides of Miles’ in what was deemed quite a controversial piece when it appeared in May 2001.

Regardless of where you stand on the issues Kelley raises about Miles it is an enlightening read.

So to wrap up this interminable Blog post I’ll say that I’d like to see Betty Davis make an appearance in the movie. As to which actress might be good to portray the wild woman of funk, I’m working on my list now….

The Miles Davis Movie: Should Don Cheadle Be Working On This Pose?

It’s a legitimate question. No denying it’s a classic and unforgettable shot of Miles Davis; the leg slung over the folding chair, the chinos, the cigarette in hand – the contemplation of Lord knows what.

So while Cheadle might be tied up these days portraying Col. James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes / War Machine, hopefully he has some time to work on the most important role of all – Miles Davis.