The last time any word got out about Don Cheadle and his non-conventional Miles Davis biopic – which he once described as a “gangster pic” – the film lacked studio backing, didn’t have a title, and had Cheadle positioned to star with Antoine Fuqua sitting in the director’s chair. What a difference a year can make; as of today, the film has been newly minted as Kill the Trumpet Player and also has a home with recently-formed production company BiFrost Pictures, as well as two additional cast members and a different filmmaker at the helm.
Between each of these developments, it’s the last that’s most eye-catching: Fuqua has been replaced with none other than Cheadle himself, marking his directorial debut and granting him even stronger influence over his long-gestating passion project. In front of the camera, Cheadle will be joined by Zoe Saldana and Ewan McGregor, who will respectively play Miles’ former wife, Frances Davis, and an unnamed reporter for Rolling Stone who helps the jazz legend “steal back his music.”
The film will take place over the span of a few days in the wake of Davis’ “silent period,” a six-year rut of inactivity between 1975 and 1981 that saw him sink to his lowest professional and personal depths. He played and practiced rarely, if at all, and instead spent most of his time abusing drugs. Cheadle won’t be focusing on this era, though, but rather the reawakening Davis experienced in the early ’80s. Further details remain somewhat fuzzy, but for the moment, knowing the specifics seems irrelevant.
Anything involving Cheadle is generally worth paying attention to, whether he’s starring in Showtime’s House of Lies or playing a supporting part in superhero fare like Iron Man 3. The fact that Kill the Trumpet Player happens to be a movie he cares greatly about and has invested a ton of his time and energy in should make the sudden burst of movement on the production that much more exciting. If nothing else, BiFrost head Dan Wagner has a lot of faith in Cheadle’s efforts and his personal vision, as seen in the following direct quote:
Don is one of our generation’s greatest actors, and this is the role he was born to play. His take on the conventional biopic of one of music’s most celebrated icons is cinematic ‘jazz’ and too unique to resist. It fits naturally with BiFrost’s commitment to support talent and their passion projects, so we are thrilled to work with Don on his feature directorial debut.
That’s a pretty strong vote of confidence, though Wagner obviously has a lot of good reasons for being effusive. Cheadles fans do, too, of course: any biopic that deliberately bucks formula and goes its own way deserves a look, but when that biopic is being handled by someone like Cheadle – namely, someone with talent to spare and a clear, infectious reverence for their subject matter – it instantly verges on “must see” territory.
For now, that’s all we know. We’ll see how Kill the Trumpet Player (which sounds a lot like a play on the name of a certain François Truffaut film) comes together in the coming months, but suffice it to say that this is a pretty cool turn of events for the film and for Cheadle.
We’ll keep you posted on further updates on Kill the Trumpet Player as they become available.