Don Cheadle (“Avengers: Age Of Ultron”) could’ve made a straightforward movie about Miles Davis, the legendary trumpeter who left a gaping hole in experimental, boundary-busting jazz when he passed away on Sept. 28, 1991 in Santa Monica at the age of 65.
Instead, the Hollywood movie star chose to incorporate the legendary jazz figure in a riveting original story he penned with Canadian screenwriter Steven Baigelman (“Get On Up”). The story has Davis in 1979 trying to retrieve a stolen jazz tape, with the help of a random Rolling Stone journalist.
The idea for the embellished bio-pic sounds more promising than the final cut, based on the reviews of a few persnickety movie critics. But you know the Miles Ahead soundtrack is off the hook, with guys like pianist Robert Glasper composing his own tunes for the occasion — and his own compilation album with featured guest stars coming up, inspired directly from the Miles Davis songbook.
Detroit Free Press wrier Julie Hinds wrote on April 16: “Cheadle disappears into the part. His commitment fuels the engine of a movie that, ironically, may irritate jazz aficionados with its improvisational approach. As the New York Times wrote, ‘Purists may howl, but they’ll also miss the pleasure and point of this playfully impressionistic movie.’”
Cheadle is said to have pursued this bio-pic with inspired fervor only after Miles Davis’ nephew encouraged him as the only actor who could do the role any justice.
In an interview with Kiko Martinez April 19 of the San Antonio Current, Cheadle — a longtime fan of Davis’ music — explained: “… the movie found me. It’s not something I was trying to make happen. The family got in touch with me and we started talking about different approaches to the film and what stories we would tell, [but] I didn’t really spark to anything they pitched.
“If I was going to do a movie about Miles Davis, I wanted it to be really innovative and crazy and gangster. I wanted to do a heist movie with Miles Davis. I wanted to do a movie Miles would want to be the star of. I didn’t want to do a movie about Miles Davis. I wanted to be Miles Davis. They said, ‘Wow, that sounds great!’ I said, ‘OK, well, when you guys have something like that, call me and I’ll show up and do it.’ It became apparent to us pretty quickly that the only way that was going to happen is if I wrote it and created it and directed it.”
His acting in it is garnering Oscar buzz. Not only does Cheadle inhabit the role so seamlessly, but he manages to make Miles Davis as accessible, cool, hip, and popular as he was hated, revered, and feared.