Don Cheadle Says Making The Miles Davis Biopic ‘Miles Ahead’ Was Nearly Impossible

By: 03.14.16
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It’s well-known that Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic, Miles Ahead, is a “passion project” for the actor/director. And passion projects — by definition — are supposed to be a hard thing to pull off, otherwise they would just be projects. But even within that framework, Cheadle had to go to some pretty extreme lengths to sell a movie about the most recognizable jazz musician of all time.

Cheadle explained the long road to getting Miles Ahead made in a new interview with Rolling Stone. The House of Lies star said that the movie started after he sat down with Davis’ family and had them toss ideas for a movie about Miles off of him. It was here that Cheadle first got the idea to go an unconventional route.

“I said, ‘I think we’ve got to make a movie about this dude as a gangster’ — ’cause that’s how I feel about Miles Davis. He’s a G. All those apocryphal stories about how bold and dynamic he was, the gangster sh*t he’d do … you could fit all that into a biopic, I guess,” he said. “Just do it without the constraints of any rules. Make some mistakes, go crazy, crash into a wall — anything but something f*cking cookie-cutter.”

The family loved the idea, but Cheadle knew that he wouldn’t be able to find anyone to pick up a movie that was so strange. The actor said he realized he would have to direct the movie once he was about a block away from the meeting. He told Rolling Stone that taking on co-writing, directing and starring in the film very nearly crushed him.

“I tried giving the movie away, believe me. There were a few attempts to get another director involved. And there were points where, if it had have evaporated, I would’ve been relieved: ‘Well, thank god, I didn’t have to take all that on, it would’ve killed me,'” he said, adding that he felt like Miles Davis would have chastised him for giving in.

“I could hear Miles’ voice in my head, saying, “Oh, you scared, motherf*cker? Quit bitching about it. Just get out there and do it.”

Cheadle said that the financiers of the movie kept making his budget slimmer and slimmer, to the point that he ended up getting some of his funding through an IndieGoGo campaign. The director admitted that they had to add Ewan McGregor’s journalist character to get the movie financed.

“To get this film financed, we needed a white co-star. These are issues that come into play. And until Ewan came on, until we had cast the proper white co-star, there was no Miles Davis movie. There was no Miles Ahead. The family had been trying to make this movie for years, and we straight-up told them, ‘We need a white co-star. We need to tell this story, in order to get this money, with a white male lead.'”

Some of that rings true to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy which took over the movie industry last month, but through all the roadblocks, the film is finally happening. Perhaps it’s fitting that Cheadle had to go so far to sell a movie that was so far out from your standard biopic. We are talking about a movie that features more fistfights and gunshots than performances, after all.

(Via Rolling Stone)

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