Some interesting revelations from Don Cheadle about his long-in-development Miles Davis feature film project, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, posted on their website this morning.
The interview really was for his new Showtime series House Of Lies, which makes its premiere in a few days (though episode 1 was posted online earlier this week, and I posted it on S&A HERE); but Cheadle was also asked about other topics, including his Miles Davis project, which I last wrote about in July, when he said he had been chatting with studios about backing the project, but nothing definite had come from those talks.
From this new Wall Street Journal interview, we can now confirm that something did come from his discussions with studios, and also he reveals even more structural details about what we’ve learned (and reported) is an unconventional biopic of Davis, which has contributed to his challenges in getting the project off the ground.
Lifted from the interview, here’s the section where he addresses the Davis film:
… It’s three to five years average for most movies to get made, but often it’s 10 or 15 years. This is the kind of movie the business 10 years ago may have leapt at. But now, you don’t really see movies like this. We have a studio offer and we’re trying to back into a budget number, like we always have to do, without gutting the piece. […] It’s not a biopic, per se. It’s a gangster pic. It’s a movie that Miles Davis would have wanted to star in. Without throwing history away, we’re trying to shuffle it and make it more cubist. The bulk of it takes place in ’79, in a period where he actually wasn’t playing. But we traverse a lot of it his life, but it’s not a cradle to grave story…
So… a bit to chew on there I’d say.
As mentioned in a previous post on the project, Cheadle already said that he wasn’t interested in a reverential “all-of-us-bow-down-to-Miles-the-icon” film, but instead present him as a man, with what he called “wall-to-wall truth.”
We can now add it’s a gangster pic (though what exactly he meant by that, I’m not sure, without him further elaborating); it’ll take place primarily in 1979 (a period of mostly inactivity for Davis, though, from the brief research I did, I’ll add that it was the year that he rekindled his romance with Cicely Tyson, overcame his cocaine addiction, while attempting, with difficulty, to regain his enthusiasm for the music, after not having played for about 3 years); and it’ll be “more cubist” (likely referring to early 20th century avant-garde art movement led by Pablo Picasso, likely with an emphasis on “avant-garde” as in innovative and/or experimental, which speaks to hints he’s given previously about it not being a traditional “cradle to grave story…”).
He also once said that he wasn’t too concerned with “facts;” and, again, I’m not too sure what he meant there since he says in another previous quote that he’s interested in presenting “wall-to-wall truth.’ Can you have what we call truth without facts? More elaborating needed.
And oh, by the way, he says a studio has made an offer to back the project, and now it’s a matter of compromising on the project’s content/style/structure/whatever, in order to reach some middle ground that both he and the studio are happy with.
But that’s good! Better to have SOME kind of an offer than none at all. So we’ll have to wait and see if an agreement will be reached.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that another Mile Davis film was recently announced; this one with George Tillman Jr developing, that will be loosely based on Gregory Davis’ book Dark Magus: The Jekyll and Hyde Life of Miles Davis, (Gregory Davis being Miles Davis’ eldest son). The plan for this project is to produce a more conventional biopic (the project’s producers mentioned Walk The Line and Ray as potential models that they’ll follow.
WSJ asked Cheadle about that competing film and he had this to say in response:
That’s something I just heard about in the last month. Look, if the world is ready to have two Miles Davis movies, fantastic. He should have eight or 10 of them […] We’re working with the family and we have all the music. There’s another period of music, about three or four years [that the other project appears to have rights to]. These estates are sometimes bifurcated. We have what we need for our film. Look, God bless. If there’s another quality movie about this legend, that’s great. I don’t think anyone’s going to be making the kind of movie we’re making.
We continue to hang on his every word regarding this yet-to-be-made film, which, from all I’ve heard from a couple of folks who’ve read the script, is effing dope! Add to that these teases we continue to get from him about what to expect, and I’m definitely very curious about what this thing is going to look, sound and feel like.
Let’s hope a deal can be made between him and the studio.
And one last non-related item… Cheadle’s the cover story on the latest issue of Jet magazine; and here’s a quote from him from within the piece, when asked about his resemblance to Conrad Murray (the doctor who was just sentenced to 4 years in prison for the death of Michael Jackson):
(Conrad Murray) is actually my passion project. You hit it! I want to play Conrad Murray, but I want to do him in drag and somewhat mentally disabled because that’s what will get me my Oscar. Oh wait, for Black people you have to be like a prostitute or a gangster. I’ll do him as a prostitute and I’ll definitely get that Oscar!
Haaaah! Cheadle’s got jokes :)