On one hand I'm thrilled to see Cheadle taking on the role of Miles Davis - for years he's been the only actor I ever had in mind to play Miles, but at the risk of rushing to judgement on a film where no footage has actually been shot, this is not the Miles Davis film I have long hoped for. It was following his 2004 film Collateral that I first imagined Michael Mann doing a Miles film, with Don Cheadle playing the Dark Magus. Mann included a significant homage to Miles in the film when Barry Shabaka Henley's jazz club owner (first seen playing Spanish Key from Bitches Brew) relates a great Miles Davis anecdote to Tom Cruise's cold clinical hitman:
I mean, everybody and their momma knew you don't just come up and talk to Miles Davis. I mean, he may have looked like he was chilling, but he was absorbed. This one hip couple, one of them tried to shake his hand one day. And the guy says, "Hi, my name is..." Miles said, "Get the fuck outta my face, you jive motherfucker, and take your silly bitch with you.Michael Mann certainly knew Miles Davis - during the 80's, Miles played a pimp in an episode of Miami Vice (Junk Love, S2/Ep6, 1985) and he cameod as a musician in Crime Story (The War S1/Ep6, 1986).
Miles Davis as Ivory Jones in Miami Vice episode Junk Love
With Ali, Michael Mann made arguably the finest biopic in 20 years, and Mann and his writers neatly sidestepped the womb-to-tomb format of the biopic by concentrating on just 10 years of Muhammad Ali's life. My own idea for a Miles Davis film would begin on August 25th 1959, when Miles was beaten up and arrested by cops outside NYC's Birdland club, and from there would take in various stages of his life and music up to his comeback in 1979 when he reined in his self-destructive lifestyle and began recording again. It's a jazz fan's idea of a film to be sure, more Bird than Notorious, but if you've seen footage of Miles at the Isle of Wight in 1970, you might agree this film doesn't need a car chase. lncidentally, the title of this post relates to Miles' side-long tip of the hat to Duke Ellington, recorded in 1974 and found on the Get Up With album. He Loved Him Madly has always been a key Miles Davis piece for me - it was one of the first things that got me curious about Miles' music, after Brian Eno cited Teo Macero's spacey production in the liner notes of his 1982 album On Land. But more than that, the brooding, mysterious, melancholic music of He Loved Him Madly always seemed to me to perfectly encapsulate Miles' dark, complex, uncompromising personality. I hope Don Cheadle's film will capture some of that.
1. Plot soucred from here