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Miles Davis Was Born Today in History… A Brief Rundown of Past & Future Films on His Life

Miles Davis Was Born Today in History... A Brief Rundown of Past & Future Films on His Life

Today in history… 

Miles Dewey Davis was born on May 26, 1926 in Alton, Illinois, to Dr. Miles Henry Davis and Cleota Mae (Henry) Davis. He would’ve been 89 years old today, were he still alive!

I think many will find it odd that we still have yet to see a proper scripted feature film on the man… the legend.

For the last 2 years, we’ve been tracking 2 different projects that are at different stages of development.

First, Don Cheadle’s unconventional bio, for which he finally raised the funds needed to complete, after many years in limbo. The film has been shot (principal photography wrapped last August – 2014), and has been in post-production since then. I actually thought that it might premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, which just ended over the weekend, but it didn’t. So I now expect that it’ll very likely premiere, still on the film festival circuit, at Toronto in September.

The second Miles Davis film in the works will be directed by George Tillman Jr. The film 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 Tillman’s project, which will be called “Miles Davis, Prince of Darkness,” is to produce a more conventional biopic (the producers previously mentioned “Walk The Line” and “Ray” as potential models that they’ll follow). No word on where this one currently stands.

As for past Miles Davis films that never moved forward, I believe it’s mostly known that Spike Lee and Wesley Snipes, at one time (2008 or so), paired up for a James Brown movie (which never happened; Tate Taylor would eventually take over the project that Chadwick Boseman starred in); but did you know that, about 15 years before that, Lee and Snipes were to team up for a Miles Davis biopic, with Snipes, of course, starring, and Spike directing?

Telling Davis’ story on film has been a struggle in Hollywood for at least 20 years. Former Columbia Records chief, Walter Yetnikoff, announced a planned biopic in 1993, starring Snipes. But despite securing rights to Davis’ autobiography, and talking with Spike Lee about directing, the Yetnikoff project, tentatively titled “Million Dollar Lips,” stalled.

You’ll find further information on this in the book “The Miles Davis Reader.” Yetnikoff planned to finance the entire film himself, which was to be produced by Preston Holmes and Fernando Suluchin (who were associate producers of Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X”). Their stated goal was to keep the project independent to avoid any Hollywood studio interference. The script was to be penned by Charles Fuller, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning “A Soldier’s Play” (which later became the award-winning film “A Soldier’s Story,” starring Denzel Washington).

In terms of past films the producers were looking at for inspiration, Holmes said back in 1996, that “Raging Bull” and “Amadeus” were models. Interesting mix certainly. 

At the time (when the project was first announced in 1993), Snipes was quite *hot* as an actor, coming off hits like “Passenger 57,” “White Men Can’t Jump,” “New Jack City,” and 2 Spike Lee joints in “Jungle Fever” (which he starred in) and “Mo’ Better Blues” (which was Denzel Washington’s show, but Snipes played a pivotal role). So his rising star during those years, as well as his connection to Spike Lee, likely helped support his casting in Yetnikoff’s Miles Davis project, with Yetnikoff wanting Spike Lee to direct.

So if you didn’t know before, now you know!

Happy birthday Miles Davis! Eventually, one (or both) of the 2 above new features will be coming to a theater near you.

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