The Miles Davis Movie: Don Cheadle Exits Director’s Chair For Antoine Fuqua

In the beginning – March 14, 2007, to be exact – when it was officially announced that Don Cheadle had struck a deal between his Crescendo Prods. and the Miles Davis Estate to star in a movie about Miles Davis, it was also revealed the film would be his feature directing debut.

On that same day in 2007, Cheadle was honored as ShoWest male star of the year.

Much has changed with the Miles Davis project since that announcement. “Nixon” scribes Stephen J. Rivele and Chris Wilkinson were on board as screenwriters – later replaced by Steven Baigelman -, and producer Cary Brokaw was helping lead the charge to put all the parts together. And Cheadle was set to direct.

In 2008 I asked: Is Don Cheadle the right person to direct the film?

I have always felt confident with Cheadle directing, first time or not, but I needed to something to stir debate. Of course I tossed in names of other directors, and asked folks who they might like to see in the director’s chair.

Back here in the present, and even with no official announcement on the books yet, it looks as though Antoine Fuqua is going to direct Cheadle in the Miles Davis Biopic. It’s listed on his IMDB page, for crying out loud, so the lack of an official statement, which I believe is kinda big news in movie/jazz circles, is puzzling.

Fuqua’s name has been mentioned alongside this long-in-development project for many years, so it’s somewhat ironic that everything has come back around and here he is about to direct the movie.

My feeling is that Cheadle’s schedule has made it too difficult to serve as both actor and director. I could be wrong. But he has a very specific vision for the movie, an approach that would certainly appeal to his directorial instincts, which is why I always figured he’d be the best choice to direct the movie. It’s his vision, he should direct it. But one can only do so much.

Portraying Miles Davis was already going to be a monster task, regardless if the movie is big-budget Hollywood bio-pic, or indie-style movie that eschews formula for a more ‘cubist’ style, as Cheadle has described the movie.

Cheadle is a busy guy. TV, films, poker, Twitter, and humanitarian work can jam a schedule pretty quickly.

Perhaps it was time to allow someone else to handle the directorial chores, and just concentrate solely on being Miles Davis. Nothing wrong with that. If it helps get the cameras rolling then so be it.

I have to think Cheadle was always jazzed about directing as well as starring, but a few “Iron Man” movies later and priorities begin to change. And that’s cool. At least he has the ability to step back, reassess the situation, and make an informed decision about what is best for the project, which continues to roll along. Perhaps the addition of Fuqua will help get the project the financing it requires to move into production.

Then again, it’s not like Fuqua doesn’t have a full plate of film projects to deal with. Everyone involved with the Miles Davis Biopic is very very busy!

Who knows, maybe a deal is already in place – but at this point no one is talking.


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