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Exclusive: Cheadle Takes on "Miles"

12/4/2006 5:43 PM PST BY TMZ STAFF

Breaking News: TMZ has learned that Oscar-nominated actor Don Cheadle ("Hotel Rwanda") plans to direct and star in "Miles Davis," a biopic of the legendary jazz innovator.
Don Cheadle and Miles DavisWhat's more, Cheadle has hired the Oscar-nominated screenwriting and producing duo, Chris Wilkinson and Steve Rivele ("Nixon"), a pair of lit heavyweights who adapted the life story of boxing's greatest heavyweight, Muhammad Ali, for Michael Mann's "Ali."

Himself a devotee of boxing, Davis would likely have approved. When Miles was making landmark jazz fusion recordings like "Bitches Brew" and "In a Silent Way," he was also contributing extensively to the soundtrack of a 1970 documentary about legendary African-American pugilist, Jack Johnson.

The Davis project has been an idea held dear by Cheadle for the last half dozen years, but until now, a music rights issue threatened to block its progress to the screen. No more.


Producer Cary Brokaw recently enlisted the aid former Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman John Calley to lock up the rights to much of Davis' Columbia Records catalogue, which is owned by Sony BMG. Calley and Brokaw collaborated on the 2004's feature "Closer," an adaptation of Patrick Marber's stage play. Moving highbrow material from stage to screen is Brokaw's specialty; he won an Emmy in 2001 for Best Made for Television Movie with his adaptation of Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play, "Wit," and a 2003 Emmy for producing the HBO miniseries, "Angels in America," based on Tony Kushner's Pulitzer-winner.

Brokaw will produce "Miles Davis" with Cheadle, Wilkinson and Rivele, and others. Insiders say the plan calls for the movie to be independently financed, with the possibility of taking it to a studio for distribution.

It's exactly the sort of complex drama studios have all but abandoned making these days: Davis' persona was notoriously abstruse and recondite: Addicted to heroin early in his career and an avid user of recreational pharmaceuticals for much of his adult life, Davis could be confrontational with audiences and forbidding with journalists. Nonetheless, he still managed to reform jazz three times -- changing bebop into modal jazz and modal into fusion -- and, musically speaking, never once looked back.

Rivele and Wilkinson, for their part, know a thing or two about bringing historical figures to life: They both wrote and produced this year's drama, "Copying Beethoven," which stars Ed Harris in the title role, and are currently adapting the Jackie Robinson story for producer Robert Redford.

News of Cheadle's interest in depicting the jazz icon first surfaced in March of this year, after Miles was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, as usual, amid critical controversy.

At the time, Davis' nephew, Vince Wilburn, announced that there had been initial discussions with "Training Day" director Antoine Fuqua, but that's clearly passed. Perhaps, Cheadle is taking some advice from his "Ocean's 11" colleague George Clooney, who recently directed himself to twin Oscar nominations for writing and directing "Good Night, and Good Luck" in the same year he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in "Syriana."

Either way, we are "Kind of Blue" to have to wait until next year to see this potential gem.
12 COMMENTS

No Avatar

1.

???    

I'm gonna F*** THIS MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2828 days ago
2.

girly    

He's a great actor I'm sure he will do a amazing job! I see #1 is a fan!

2828 days ago
3.

GoAway    

I'm excited! Don is a talented actor.

2828 days ago
4.

???    

SO SEXY, SEXY,SEXY

2828 days ago
5.

Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV    

This is awesome. Cheadle is absolutely the man.

2828 days ago
6.

p1tey1    

Its about time there was a movie about Miles Davis. And I love Don Cheadle.

2828 days ago
7.

BOBBY    

Miles is legend -and for those folks that missed
him in Tokyo or Paris - well were all in for new -real treat
Once this picture gets made
if Client Eastwood can produce "Bird"
Cheadle will shine brighter then the Rat Pack
When he played Sammy Davis and Hotel Riwanda
his just coming into fine form as a actor now
Music Pictures are Tough sell - look At Idlewild -The Studios
like Universal Studios and HBO were clueless how to release it -and Market it
Hopefully - Cheadle and his partners will go the Independent Route
since ground swell from a independent that knowS how to sell this
could only help -
Bobby

2828 days ago
8.

Curt McGirt    

Don Cheadle to me is definately on top of his game. I cant wait to hear him speak in Miles' distinct raspy voice and Intense stare. If this is done right it could be an Oscar worthy clasic.

2827 days ago
9.

Shamazon    

Don Cheadle is overlooked, taken for granted and underappreciated. This project, in his capable hands, is going to be spectacular. I can't wait. I am so glad it's finally off the ground.

Favorite Don Cheadle line: "If you didn't want him dead, why'dya leave him with me?"
~ Mouse, Devil In A Blue Dress

2827 days ago
10.

Joachim Herschmann    

This is awesome! I have been waiting for a long time for someone to finally make this movie! Clint's Bird was ages ago and in recent years hardly any good music movies have been made - let alone movies about the great artists of jazz . This was long overdue! And Don is the man!

2826 days ago
11.

AngelG.1    

I almost missed this post-1982 we gave our son Miles for his middle name, and at that time my ex-hubby and I were in our 20somethings! Don C. is terrfic , always and I dont understand why he never gets the attention, he gets so deep into his charicter, you can forget he is that you are seeing an actor! I cant wait for the movie- and you are right #10 Don IS the man. Peace and Love:)

2812 days ago
12.

AngelG.1    

And P.S. to those who have not realy listen to Miles, you can find his influencs in all good music , to those who havent give him a try. In every album, you will find so much -slow and sexy , or just blowin it out. saw him in 1981in concert with Kenny G. You would think all would respect Miles over Kenny- but Kenny was in the audiance sitting on womens lapes while Miles just played , some times with his back to the croud, and it was the most incredable music I think I ever heard.He is truly an O.G., ther will never be anyone like him. Peace and Love :)

2812 days ago

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