Generally speaking, musical biopics take either a traditional approach of spanning the lifetime of a great artist or covering their most fertile creative period. But for “Miles Ahead,” director and star Don Cheadle decided to focus on the late ’70s, a period when Miles Davis was largely out of the public spotlight. It’s a bold move, but an era Cheadle found fascinating.
“Just the fact that he wasn’t playing. The fact that he hadn’t played for five years, up to that point, and in a way, was either chopping at the bit to figure out what to say again, if to say again, or he was going down towards death very quickly. He was standing on that knife’s edge at that point, and I don’t think he even know which way it was gonna go. So for us, when we got to the period in all the research about how Miles didn’t play for five years, we were like, ‘What?’ [Laughs] That was the part that was the most interesting from a human being standpoint to me,” he told EW. “Musically and what he did with his art form was amazing to me all the time, for the most part. But for me, as a human and an artist and someone who’s a creative person, what happens when you just stop for five years? That’s why we picked that moment to sort of be the departure point: him on the verge of talking again, basically. ”