One of the most intriguing jazz news stories of recent years was revived when Don Cheadle recently confirmed that his plans to make a film about Miles Davis were developing. The proposed project, which Cheadle would both direct and star in, was announced two years ago but had scarcely been mentioned by the Oscar-nominated actor since. Cheadle, of course, has been busy starring in films like Iron Man 2 and a new television show, House of Lies (costarring Kristen Bell), but this latest update will certainly be encouraging for jazz fans. According to Cheadle, his Miles project will not be a “cradle to grave” cinematic portrait. “It’s not a biopic, per se,” he told the Wall Street Journal, “It’s a gangster pic. It’s a movie Miles Davis would have wanted to star in.” Focusing on the period in the late 1970s when Davis was absent from both the bandstand and recording studio and living in isolation, Cheadle’s film will explore what the trumpeter was doing and, one supposes, the trouble he was getting into. Whatever the particulars, Mr. Cheadle has our attention and we await more news about the project.
For those who are looking for a Ray-like treatment of Davis’s life, George Tillman, Jr. is also reportedly working on a film about the trumpeter. Tillman, who directed the 2009 biopic of rapper Biggie Smalls, Notorious, is utilizing a screenplay adapted from Gregory Davis’s 2006 biography of his father: Dark Magus: The Jekyll and Hyde Life of Miles Davis.
In local news, jazz film historian Mark Cantor returns to the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco for the first of three tantalizing glimpses into his collection of rare clips on Saturday, January 21. Mr. Cantor is one the world’s foremost authorities on historic jazz films and his Treasures from the Archive presentation will surely be an enlightening event. Extremely rare clips of Count Basie, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Benny Goodman, and Ella Fitzgerald are promised. Don’t miss it! Information and tickets can be found here.