Don Cheadle has been developing a biopic of jazz legend Miles Davis for some time, but director George Tilman Jr might just have got the jump on him: he's now attached to a different Davis project, with the involvement of Davis' own son Gregory.
Miles Davis was a trumpeter and band leader, and a central figure in jazz music for decades. As well as being a key figure of the age himself, he worked with everyone else you've ever heard of, including greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Art Blakey and John Coltrane, and was right in the middle of practically every scene - bebop, cool, fusion - that emerged between the 1940s and 1970s. He won Grammy awards in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and one for Lifetime Achievement in 1990. He died, aged 65, in 1991.
The new film, tentatively titled Miles, is based on Dark Magus: The Jekyll And Hyde Life Of Miles Davis, Gregory's own biography of his father. That title refers to the "prince of darkness" sobriquet that Miles earned thanks to his whispering voice, nocturnal lifestyle, and a difficult period in the 50s when, like many of his contemporaries, he was addicted to heroin. He had a well-publicised "disagreement" with Theolonius Monk, and one famous story saw a drug-addled, rain-drenched Davis, with his trumpet in a paper bag, invading a gig by Max Roach and Clifford Brown, playing an impromptu solo and then disappearing once again into the night. Davis always denied the story, but it sounds like great cinema.
George Tilman Jr recently made the not-very-speedy Rock vehicle Faster, but the most relevant job on his CV is a rather different kinc of musical biopic, Notorious, based on the life of rapper Biggie Smalls. Producer Nick Raynes says that, “Our intention is to make a feature film that will appeal beyond the worldwide audience of Miles Davis' die-hard fans, to also include those who don't know the first thing about the man, and introduce new ears to his music. In much the same way that Walk The Line and Ray were able to open the world's eyes to the life stories of Johnny Cash and Ray Charles, we want to make a film that will do the same for Miles Davis, whose fifty-year career as a musician transcends time and race."
Gregory Davis meanwhile, says, “I trust George Tillman will tell the true story of my father, without any sugar-coating. My father was an amazing man who believed in the promise of America. I know this film will do him justice.”