Don Cheadle has been planning a biopic on the life of legendary jazz musician Miles Davis for quite some time now, and it looks like they’ve finally made some significant progress with a script by writer Steven Vegelman now completed and the project simply waiting on financing.
“We just turned in the script and we’re going to find some money to make this thing,” Cheadle told THR. “Now is a good time, 10 years ago would have been a good time, and 10 years from now it will still be a good time to see a dynamic, entertaining movie that’s wall-to-wall Miles Davis where the music will hopefully spark some desire to know more about the man… When Miles left this Earth, he was already working with Prince, Snoop Dogg understands the music. … Miles always wanted to do what was happening now. If you said the word ‘jazz’ to him, he’d give you a smack — social music, that’s what it’s called.”
The biopic was previously described as a “cradle-to-grave, historically accurate depiction of who he was” rather than a traditional biopic with Cheadle — who plans to direct and star, being an accomplished trumpeter himself — also promising a project that is “on the edge and feels a little bit dangerous.” One thing definitely on Cheadle’s side is the backing he has from Davis’ estate and from the music studios– the downfall of many a musician’s biopic — likely due to his relationship with Davis’ son Erin.
“We’re trying to do what Miles Davis would have wanted us to do, which is approach it as artists with his life as the canvas. In being successful, some people say he sold out, but it’s the opposite. You can stay in one place forever and try to make the same money from the same core fans, but saying to your audience, ‘I’m going here now, come along or don’t,’ that’s brave, risky and dangerous. That’s what he did, and that’s what we’re trying to honor in this story — that kind of spirit.”
The biopic already has fellow music legend and former Miles Davis Quintet member Herbie Hancock on board to score the film, but it sounds like Cheadle has even greater ambitions regarding the music behind this gestating biopic. “We’ve had our nose to the ground doing a lot of researching, talking, walking, watching and listening,” scribe Vegelman added. “We wanted to create an interesting character for an audience today. Miles was at a juncture in his life where, if he didn’t rediscover the art, he would die, and Don has this point of view about bringing in other hip-hop artists, to play with Miles Davis’ music so the idea is for somebody to hear Jay-Z’s version then turn to the original to learn more about Miles Davis.” Jay-Z doing Davis? Herbie Hancock scoring? If he can get the talent on board, surely, it’s not going to be too hard to find the financing for this.
The more we hear from Cheadle, the more exciting it seems, and it’s certainly a pet passion project that he is making sure is done right, respecting the artist while playfully opening up the narrative opportunities. Just how off-the-wall might the project be? Cheadle has already noted that “the first line in our movie, with him in the dark, is of him saying ‘Some of this shit might have happened.'”