If you missed out on the memo, Don Cheadle launched an Indiegogo campaign earlier this year to help raise money to create a film that has taken 10 years of planning and work to put together: Miles Ahead. It turns out that Cheadle (who did put a lot of his own money into the project if you were wondering) and crew have the money they need and are all set to start filming this week in Cincinnati. In an exclusive interview with Entertainment Weekly, Cheadle talked about working with the family (who only saw him as the right person to play Davis) to bring the movie together, what fans can expect from it, and why it’s not just “another biopic.”
What It’s Like To Be In Costume And To Finally Begin Shooting The Film
“It’s a great shot; it’s kinda cool, huh? I attribute that to my department to more than anything I’m doing: That’s hair, makeup, wardrobe, and props. But it’s cool to be sitting on it and have it all begin. At this point, with everything that’s happening, its real and surreal and hyperreal and every version of it that I can think of.”
The Davis Family Wanting Him To Play Miles And Why He Was Leery At First
“I never thought about portraying him, really. I had done several other quote-unquote biopics and was always struck by the limitations they presented, because they were trying to be historically accurate. Let’s be honest, any biopic is a series of omissions and conflations of events and amalgamations of characters. And you’re trying to have a movie experience under three hours, so in the process you condense people’s lives from cradle to grave, so things tend to feel episodic and event-oriented as opposed to a story about people and relationships and a character.
So I didn’t want to do another biopic. So when I heard the idea, from various people who had played with him, producers, writers, that this could potentially be something, I thought, ‘if the script is great, I would be open to it since he’s always been a fascinating figure to me.’
And then, in 2008, when Miles was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, his nephew was interviewed and was asked, ‘Would you ever do a movie on his life?” He said yes, and that Don Cheadle is going to play him. And I was like ‘I am?’”
What Part Of Davis’ Life The Film Will Focus On
“Well, the construction of the movie is the parallel story of Miles in 1979 at the end of this quiet period he was in, the five-year stretch of time when he wasn’t playing and performing and recording, juxtaposed against the 10-year period where he was with Francis Taylor Davis, who, at the time, was the love of his life and his muse.”
Why So Many Biopics Struggle When The Family Is Hesitant, And Why The Davis Family Approved Of Him
“They should be hesitant. I can’t imagine handing over the keys to my loved ones life to some writers and you know, a bunch of people I don’t know and say, ‘ok produce a story on my mom.’ [Laughs] They have their experience of their father, their uncle, their bandmate, their leader, and, at the end of the day, I don’t know why they said me. Maybe it has to be with the kind of roles they’ve seen me play before, maybe it’s because I’ve been in other biopics. Maybe it’s a resemblance, whatever the concoction was that made sense to [Miles Davis’ nephew] Vince Wilburn to say, ‘Don is going to play my uncle.’ That’s a question I never really asked, to be quite honest.
We wouldn’t have been able to use the music we’re using if the estate hadn’t signed on and hadn’t been on board. We’re working with Sony and Columbia and the family and between the agreements of that triumvirate, we’re able to use the music of his life, during the Columbia years.”
You learn so much about Davis, Cheadle’s work on the film (including learning to play the trumpet) and more from this interview with EW. It’s a lengthy one, but worth reading in full, and you can check it out over at the Entertainment Weekly website.
Are you excited about the film?