Don Cheadle has transformed himself into Miles Davis for his new film Miles Ahead. Not only is Cheadle starring in the biopic about the great jazz musician, but he’s also making his directorial debut. Miles Ahead focuses on Davis’ “silent period,” when he stopped making music. The biopic also takes a look at his marriage to Frances Taylor Davis and, finally, the creation of Davis’ 1968 album In a Silent Way.
Last month Cheadle launched an IndieGoGo campaign to secure funding for his movie, and with less than 33 hours to go, so far it’s short $17,000 of the $325,000 goal. Cheadle, who has been a Davis fan since he started playing the saxophone in the fifth grade, talked about his move to fund the movie via social media and reach out to the music community. “While Miles used his horn to communicate and create ‘social music,’ are using social media and today’s online platforms to reach out to the music community, the film community, and people who are excited to see an explosive, cool, music-filled movie,” Cheadle said.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Cheadle discussed how Davis was an early influence on his life. “His music was definitely a part of my life very early on, thanks to my parents. And I was fortunate when I was young to have music teachers in school that also introduced us to jazz in general. I was maybe 10, in fifth grade, when I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the sax at a school which had instruments because we couldn’t afford one. So I started playing sax and was really a fan of Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderley. And through Cannonball I found Miles,” Cheadle stated.
Unlike several announcements about biopics of deceased singers, what makes Cheadle’s stand out is the support from Davis’ family. Not only did the family pinpoint Cheadle as the actor early on, but the record labels that Davis worked with gave Cheadle their full cooperation.
"We wouldn’t have been able to use the music we’re using if the estate hadn’t signed on and hadn’t been on board. We’re working with Sony and Columbia and the family, and between the agreements of that triumvirate, we’re able to use the music of his life, during the Columbia years,” Cheadle told Entertainment Weekly.
Miles Ahead is now shooting in Cincinnati. Co-starring with Don Cheadle are Ewan McGregor, Michael Stuhlbarg and Emayatzy Corinealdi. No release date has yet been set.
Yesha Callahan is editor of The Grapevine and a staff writer at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.