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Did You Know: The Miles Davis Film Spike Lee & Wesley Snipes Almost Made, Written by Charles Fuller

Did You Know: The Miles Davis Film Spike Lee & Wesley Snipes Almost Made, Written by Charles Fuller

I actually don’t think I was aware of this before reading about it today. Or maybe I was, but just can’t remember. And I’m assuming that some of you probably weren’t aware either. So I’m just sharing as an FYI. There’s obviously nothing that can be done about it now. Or is there…

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?

I was reading THIS profile of Don Cheadle’s upcoming Miles Davis project (via Variety), and, about halfway through it, saw this brief mention: “Telling the Miles Davis story has baffled Hollywood for at least 20 years. Former Columbia Records chief Walter Yetnikoff announced a planned biopic in 1993, starring Wesley Snipes. But despite securing rights to Davis’ autobiography, and talking with Spike Lee about directing, the Yetnikoff project, tentatively titled “Million Dollar Lips,” fell through, and his option lapsed.

I did some further research to find that (courtesy of 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. I also learned that 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).

And finally, 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. 

I did find mentions of the project in Ebony (a 1997 article) and Jet Magazine (in 1993). So, clearly, the project was in the news. At the time, I was still in college, unsure of what the hell I was going to do with my life, so this was likely news I heard, but soon forgot. And since I couldn’t find much on it on the web, since 1997, it probably hasn’t been mentioned very much over the last decade-and-a-half.

At the time when the project was first announced (1993), Snipes was *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, helps support his casting in Yetnikoff’s Miles Davis project, plus Yetnikoff’s wanting Spike Lee to direct.

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

As for Cheadle’s own Miles Davis film, shooting ended 2 months ago, but it doesn’t have a distributor yet. My guess is that it will debut at some major film festival during the first half of 2015 – maybe Sundance (January), Berlin (February) or Cannes (May).

Check out the film’s Variety profile here

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