A biopic about jazz musician Miles Davis has been on Hollywood's to-do list for a while now. Last fall, director George Tillman Jr. (Notorious) was tapped to bring Davis' story to the big screen. However, not too long thereafter, word got out that Don Cheadle was developing his own project, based on the highly-influential trumpeter/composer's life.
In a recent interview, the heads of the Miles Davis Estate - his son Erin Davis and nephew Vince Wilburn Jr. - revealed that they are actively pushing for Cheadle's Davis biopic to happen. Furthermore, the duo are now saying that Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) is onboard to direct Cheadle in the film.
The aforementioned Wall Street Journal interview with E. Davis and Wilburn (tip of the hat to Shadow and Act) marks the first indication that Cheadle won't direct the Miles Davis project, as was previously said to be his plan. Assuming the report is accurate, that doesn't, per se, mean the movie is going to be retooled as a more conventional dramatization of Davis' story - now that Fuqua is calling the shots - unlike Cheadle's original vision, which he described to WSJ as follows:
"It’s not a biopic, per se. It’s a gangster pic. It’s a movie that Miles Davis would have wanted to star in. Without throwing history away, we’re trying to shuffle it and make it more cubist. The bulk of it takes place in ’79, in a period where he actually wasn’t playing. But we traverse a lot of it his life, but it’s not a cradle to grave story…"
For comparison's sake: the Davis biopic that was (is?) being developed by Tillman Jr. was being fashioned to take a more formulaic approach to the musican's 50-year long career (think of a film similar to Ray and Walk the Line).
As far as this writer is concerned: Cheadle's film about Davis sounds interesting, and much more promising than a potentially-generic biopic that attempts to cram the vast majority of its subject's fascinating life into a neat box - and thus, fail to do it justice. Fuqua doesn't exactly boast a spotless record as a director, with a few more critical duds (King Arthur, Shooter) than widely-admired hits under his belt (Training Day, Lightning in a Bottle); still, he's a competent-enough director to do justice to Davis' story, assuming the screenplay is up to scratch.
Moreover, this Davis flick reads as a passion project for Cheadle, so the Oscar-nominated actor will surely push hard for a quality final product; at the least, one that doesn't fall too short of its ambition. Cheadle is currently reprising his role as James Rhodes/War Machine for Iron Man 3 - and has a second season on House of Lies in his future - but otherwise, his schedule is open enough to ensure the Miles Davis movie won't end up getting put on the backburner.
We'll keep you updated on Cheadle and Fuqua's Miles Davis biopic as the story develops.