*Sony Pictures Classics’ “Miles Ahead” premiered at the 2015 New York Film Festival and opened in select theaters on April 1. Rather than explore the conventional way of presenting a music biopic, the film’s star and executive producer Don Cheadle built an exciting crime-like narrative around the creative chaos that Davis suffered in the late 70’s. Ewan McGregor plays the persistent journalist who aids Davis on a mission to retrieve a missing tape of valuable session music.
Don is joined by an incredible cast which includes Emayatzy Corinealdi who starred in Ava DuVernay’s “Middle of Nowhere.” The film also features an impressive ensemble that includes Herbie Hancock and Gary Clark Jr.
Don said he didn’t want to “do the same films that that I’ve seen about historical figures.” Most especially about musicians.
“I was trying to figure out what he was doing on the horn and what those solos were about and transcribe them and try to play them. Then I just became enamored of him and his music and all of these leaders he spawned. Everyone that played with Miles became a leader in their own right,” the award-winning actor said about getting into Miles’ head in order to prepare for the role.
“Miles Ahead” is an extraordinary film about the legendary trumpeter, and also confirms Cheadle’s tremendous talent. As an actor, director and co-writer of the film, Don’s version of Miles is not only told through the artist’s incredible music, but also through fantastical flashbacks. The film focuses on a fictional encounter between Miles and a Rolling Stones reporter (McGregor) during a five-year musical hiatus, which Don admits – some of the story had to be embellished in order to “create the momentum and to create a story that feels like momentum.”
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“Clearly we’ve taken poetic license in places to support the narrative,” Don said. “There are events that happen that we point to and we talk about, like Miles was shot in a drive by – absolutely true. There was this recording that was produced during this period of time that’s never been released that everyone wanted, and he was in a relationship with the studio and they were trying to get the next thing out of him. There was a trumpet player that was hired at Columbia during this period of time that was there to fill the void that Miles had left. I don’t want to go through and demystify the movie by pointing to everything that happened or didn’t happen. It’s been very interesting in my own research to tell a story back to somebody who was there, that I read in an article, and them say, ‘That ain’t how that shit happened.’ “
Cheadle’s highly acclaimed and much-anticipated Miles Davis biopic opened in limited release in only four theaters across the country. During its second week, “Miles Ahead” continues to hold strong. It increased the number of theaters it’s currently playing, for a box office total so far of nearly $400k.
Prior to the film’s release, Don spoke about the fear that consumed him while developing the project, and confessed that “There was no part of it where fear wasn’t in the side car.”
“I knew that I was taking on something,” he added. “Producing it, directing it, acting in it, writing it, composing music – anyone one of those things by themselves for someone like me was fear inducing to do it all. I tried to give this away several years ago. I tried to hire another director so that I could not be faced with that responsibility. But that didn’t come to pass. Everybody who I interviewed and I met with said, ‘This is your vision. Why would I? You have to see this through til the end. This is your journey.’ And thankfully I knuckled down and did it. If this thing had gone away years ago, I would’ve bitched about it, but part of me would’ve been relieved that I did not have to deal with all that pressure.”
Considering “all that pressure” Don endured, one wonders whether or not he found it harder to get started or to keep going? If his wife has her way about it, the actor will never put his mental or psychical under such critical stress ever again.
“My wife came down to see me halfway through production, and she said, ‘You can’t ever do this again.’ I lost weight. I was stressing out. She could see it. I wasn’t sleeping,” he explained. “Every ride the next morning in the van was about, ‘How many hours of sleep did you get?’ That was a thing. If somebody would go, ‘I got 8 hours of sleep,’ then we’d be like, ‘How? Give me the mix! I need the powder or whatever you did.’ It was a very intense production.
For MORE on “Miles Ahead” including showtimes, click HERE.