Kind of Clichéd: How the Miles Davis Movie Could Have Been Better

When I heard that “Miles Ahead,” the bio-pic about Miles Davis starring and directed by Don Cheadle, would be set in the late nineteen-seventies, when Davis had stopped performing in public—and would be centered on the story of Davis’s friendship with a white journalist—I was excited, because I knew of such a real-life story, and it’s a good one.

The journalist Eric Nisenson (who died in 2003) was befriended by Davis in that period and wrote about the story of their friendship in his biography of Davis, “ ’Round About Midnight.” It’s the story of an earnest lover of jazz who spent lots of time in the combination apartment and music studio of the bassist Walter Booker. One night, Davis came to Booker’s place, met Nisenson, and, to the journalist’s surprise, became a pal. The resulting portrait of Davis by Nisenson was an unsparingly intimate, complex, and oddly whimsical view of the artist in retreat.

Source: The New Yorker

Review: ‘Miles Ahead,’ an Impressionistic Take on Miles Davis

There’s a hopped-up scene in “Miles Ahead,” controlled yet frenzied, when you get why Don Cheadle decided to go for broke.

He’s playing Miles Davis (he also directed) and the time is the late 1970s — although it’s also the 1960s. Time and space tend to blur in this movie and while the setting is a ’70s boxing match, a couple of figures from Miles’s past — his wife, his younger self — soon swing in to shake things up. She’s running scared and the 1970s Miles is running amok, but the younger Miles, well, there he is, too, playing it cool in the ring. Music is fighting, at least for this pugilist.

Source: The New York Times

Don Cheadle on Becoming Miles Davis

Don Cheadle was not looking to play Miles Davis. He had done biopics before, starring as Sammy Davis Jr. in “The Rat Pack” (1998), which earned him a Golden Globe, and as the hotelier and accidental humanitarian Paul Rusesabagina in the 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda,” for which he received an Academy Award nomination.

Mr. Cheadle had played the street hoops star Earl Manigault, a.k.a. the Goat, in “Rebound” and the radio D.J. Petey Greene in “Talk to Me”.

Source: The New York Times

Don Cheadle on Becoming Miles Davis

This weekend Mr. Cheadle arrives in “Miles Ahead,” a decidedly nonbiopic-like film about the towering jazz trumpeter and composer. Far from the typical linear film narrative, in which a great jazz voice is inevitably brought down, often for good, by drink or drugs (think “Bird,” “’Round Midnight,” “Let’s Get Lost” or “Lady Sings the Blues”), “Miles Ahead” focuses on a period in the late 1970s when Davis wasn’t performing at all. “I loved the incongruity,” Mr. Cheadle said. “The Miles ‘play what’s not there’ idea of it.”

Since its premiere at the New York Film Festival in October, the movie has earned praise for its unconventional portrait of the influential musician. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter called it “an adventurous, music-saturated depiction of one of the genre’s undisputed greats,” while A. O. Scott of The New York Times wrote that “anyone who wants to get a jump on possible Oscar nominees for 2017” should see the film.

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Watch: First Full Trailer for ‘Miles Ahead’ Biopic

“If you gunna tell a story… come with some attitude, man!” Sony Pictures Classics has unveiled the first official trailer for Don Cheadle’s new film Miles Ahead, which already played the New York Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival so far. Don Cheadle stars as legendary jazz musician Miles Davis, with a cast including Keith Stanfield, Michael Stuhlbarg, Emayatzy Corinealdi and Ewan McGregor. Reviews for the film say that Cheadle “buries himself in the character. His version of Davis is a creature of paranoia and understated frustration…” Continue reading “Watch: First Full Trailer for ‘Miles Ahead’ Biopic”

‘Miles Ahead’ Lands At Sony Classics

Sony Pictures Classics has acquired worldwide rights to Miles Ahead, the Miles Davis biopic starring Don Cheadle who makes his directorial debut on the movie. The pic tells the story of a few lost days in the life of the trumpet icon as he bursts out of his silent period, conspires with a Rolling Stone writer (Ewan McGregor) to steal back his music, and relives the years he had with his great love Frances Taylor.

The film is premiering October 11 as the closing-night selection at the New York Film Festival. SPC did not offer up a release date yet though it it certain to get a prime awards-season slot.

Via Deadline

* I have been covering the story of the Miles Davis Movie since 2008, so this is news that is long-overdue – and rather exciting. One step closer to the big screen.

Miles Davis Movie To Begin Filming Summer 2014

No word if a deal is in place, but according to Don Cheadle, via this new Variety article, shooting is set to begin next summer.

“We still haven’t decided where,” Cheadle said. “That depends on things like tax credits.”

Cheadle is set to star in and direct the Miles Davis Biopic – Kill the Trumpet Player -, even though director Antoine Fuqua had been named as director awhile back. It was never confirmed in the movie press, or by Cheadle, but the project was/is listed on his IMDB page.

Obviously the deal fell through and Cheadle took back the directors’ chair.

From the Variety article:

Don Cheadle says he began to play the trumpet three years ago as preparation for starring in and directing the Miles Davis biopic “Kill the Trumpet Player.”

He found the trumpet to be unforgiving. “It’s a mean instrument,” he mused Thursday night at Harvelle’s in Santa Monica. “It’s a relief that my playing won’t be used in the film.”

And this:

Cheadle said he first heard about the project in 2006 when Davis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“Vince Wilburn announced I was going to play Miles, and it was the first I’d heard of it,” he recalled. “It’s not the first time that’s happened.”

I have been covering the Miles Davis Biopic since 2007. All this news makes my heart sing! Sure, I think this Miles Davis chasing bad record execs plot is peculiar, but I’m happy to go along with it because the idea of Cheadle playing the jazz legend has always been the #1 reason to hope and pray this project finally gets made.

I think the story of Miles Davis deserves a thorough account of his life, which means another biopic might happen down the road, but for now we’ll see what Cheadle can deliver. I also believe Ken Burns (or someone else) really needs to produce an in-depth, three or four-part series on Miles Davis.

And don’t forget: Director George Tillman Jr. has his own Miles Davis Biopic on the way, loosely based on the book “Dark Magus: The Jekyll and Hyde Life of Miles Davis”, written by Gregory Davis.

No word yet if Tillman and producer Nick Raynes have an actor in mind to play Davis. No doubt it will be key for Tillam to cast wisely when finding someone to play such a major, real-life figure. They could go the unknown route, or perhaps there is an actor already established who might want to take on the challenge.

While Cheadle’s movie is built on a more unique narrative, it seems Tillman Jr. will deliver a more traditional plot.

The Miles Davis Movie: The Latest News & Updates

200px-porgy_and_bess_miles_davis Happy 2013! All the latest and greatest news about Miles Davis and the Miles Davis Movie (that seems to be titled Kill the Trumpet Player) is happening over at

In the meantime, here are some posts about the Miles Davis Film you might have missed!

Don Cheadle On Miles Davis Biopic: “We’re Not Letting Go”

What Is The Number One Obstacle Facing The Project?

Don Cheadle Still Playing Trumpet, A Good Sign For The Miles Davis Movie

And The Film Title Is… “Kill The Trumpet Player”

Is There An Exit Plan For Don Cheadle?

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.

Miles Davis Biopic Rolls On, Likely Headed For An Art House Theatre Near You

I hate to sound like I am raining on the creative parade, but what is so darn wrong about a Miles Davis Biopic just ‘being about Miles?’

Don Cheadle recently spoke with about the project:

“Biopics are concerned with cradle to the grave depictions of a subject and character. This movie is much more expressive. And in my opinion, we’re hopefully making a movie that Miles would want to be in as opposed to it just ‘being about Miles.'”

I have no problem whatsoever with a cradle-to-the-grave movie. Is it going to redefine cinema as we know it? Nope. But if we are only to be left with a very entertaining movie about an iconic jazz musician then what is wrong with that?

And why does it need to be a movie that Miles would want to be in? Like as an extra? What does that mean?

But here’s Cheadle quote about the biopic I really like:

“It’s all about his life but its not specific facts, those are irrelevant.”

I’d love to know what ‘specific facts’ about Miles Davis Cheadle considers irrelevant. Sure, we don’t need to know the name of Davis’ dentist, or what flavor ice cream he preferred. I can see how those types of facts might be considered irrelevant to the story. But I get the feeling the biopic is veering closer to “I’m Not There” territory, rather than something like “Ray.”

I love an art-house style biopic like “Basquiat” as much as anyone, but I believe the Miles Davis Biopic needs/demands a larger canvas to tell the story – and tell it right.

In the end, economics might provide the final decision on how the biopic is produced. The project team is in the process of securing financing, which is a hopeful sign, especially when earlier this year Cheadle blamed former President Bush and the global economic meltdown in general for the slow development of the biopic and movies in general.

Thankfully it looks as though Cheadle and the Miles Davis Estate are pushing ahead with the project.

I just pray the end-result is not too artistic for its own good.

Miles Davis was complex, but that doesn’t mean a biopic about his life has to be.

The Miles Davis Movie: Miles Davis Biopic Release Date Pushed From 2011 To 2013

At some point in the last few weeks the release date/year for the Untitled Miles Davis Biopic listing on IMDB was switched from 2011 to 2013. I kicked off the Miles Davis Movie blog back in June 2008, so clearly I was just a touch early to the party. But in reality I could have started the blog even years earlier because this film project about the life of Miles Davis has been bouncing around in one form or another for years and years.

Don Cheadle is certainly not in any rush to hammer this film to completion, especially when he has movies like The Avengers, among other projects, already on his calendar.

These release dates are usually pretty fluid, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the release year was pushed to 2014 – or BEYOND! I just cannot envision the production happening sooner. Cheadle has already lamented the lack of funds for such a film (this ain’t Iron Man, baby!), so it would take quite a jolt to get this project through the development maze and in front of cameras. I’m already on record as saying that if Cheadle is fearful the project will ‘end up on the studios’ scrapheap,’ then perhaps another team should pick up the baton and see if they can get the movie produced. Of late, the talented actor has reiterated his desire to play the jazz legend and get the movie made, so it looks like full speed ahead – except that the speed appears to be like 5 mph.

That there’s even an IMDB page with a release date is cause for a party considering this movie project has traveled so far and touched so many hands. I figure it will get done one day. Having just watched the new Doors doc When You’re Strange, I started to think perhaps a first-class, blow-out the budget documentary on the life of Miles Davis might be the better way to go, but there is just something about a feature film that ‘feels’ like it could be a very special motion picture experience.

But we’ll see. In 2013. Or whenever.

The Miles Davis Movie: Unofficial Teaser Poster Should Be Official!

If you know me then you know I am obsessed with the Miles Davis Biopic. The other day I was chatting with graphic designer Julien Trédan-Turini (interviewed here last week) about the film and my intense curiosity about what the movie poster will (one day) look like.

We’re on step 7 out of 100 (1000?!) in the journey to get a film about Miles Davis on the screen, so it’s going to be a while before anyone sees any posters. But then again I have always been a big fan of conjecture. Before the big, showy movie poster adorns movie theaters everywhere, usually a teaser poster makes the rounds – ramping up the anticipation.

So I mentioned to Julien that if he had a little time it’d be fun to see what he could think up for a cool teaser poster. I’d say he succeeded marvelously. I’m now even more excited for the movie that might or might ever see the light of day!

Julien’s concept is uncluttered, modern and really drives home the anticipation. I love the artistic style of the word ‘Miles’ and how it plays off the more traditional font of ‘Davis.’ You could even drop the ‘Davis’ and let the ‘Miles’ carry the entire poster. Either way – it rocks! Big thanks to Julien. So take note marketing persons who might be involved with the movie. Or drop Julien a line – he knows what’s up!


Artwork is © Julien Trédan-Turini
(also posted over at miles davis online)

The Miles Davis Movie: Don Cheadle In Paris

In between all the Iron Man 2 hullabaloo, it’s easy to forget Don Cheadle is the guy with the enormous responsibility to make a biopic about Miles Davis.

So when we get a glimpse of the actor strolling around the We Want Miles exhibit in Paris, it tells those of us following the long and winding road of the Miles Davis Movie that Cheadle is still thinking about it. Perhaps a research trip? Maybe he needs a shot of inspiration? Or maybe he can easily jet off to Paris, so why not hit the Cite de la Musique and see what’s up with this acclaimed exhibit?

We all know he’s plenty busy running around Hollywood as War Machine, but one day the guy is going to ‘be’ Miles Davis – and that remains a really big deal.

No doubt he enjoyed his tour of the exhibit.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Barber

Hey, What’s Don Cheadle Doing?*

Here’s Don Cheadle dressed up as War Machine for the upcoming “Iron Man 2.” Sigh.

How nice will it be when we get the early photos of Cheadle dressed up as Miles Davis?

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

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)