Portraying a well-known historical figure presents profound challenges, for the actor and audience alike.
There are issues surrounding physical similarity and how do you capture the character’s essence while avoiding sheer imitation. And then there’s the fact everyone will have experienced that famous person in his own way and, to put it mildly, you can’t please us all.
Put it together and you can appreciate anew the tightrope these actors trod. Bear it all in mind next time you catch a really successful biopic like “Walk the Line” or “Ray.”
Given the stakes involved, I must pronounce myself happy that Don Cheadle is working on a Miles Davis biopic. Besides bearing a passing physical resemblance, Cheadle is a fiercely intelligent actor who may well be capable of capturing the trumpeter’s mercurial moods.
The biopic – co-starring Ewan McGregor, Michael Stuhlbarg and Emayatzy Corinealdi – begins shooting this week in Cincinnati and the first production photos were released today.
Here’s what Cheadle told MTV about the project four years ago:
The story is really not ... a biopic per se. It's not attempting to be any cradle-to-grave depiction of (Miles') life. It's more my take, as an artist, on what his music has meant. With wall-to-wall truth but not really much concerned about facts.
It turns out that Cheadle plays trumpet, although he’s not going to take on that challenge in the movie.
We've been working with the estate and Columbia... and Sony music (and they’ve) really been good about … giving us rights to the music. I don't think I want to try to play if I can use Miles' playing. But for the authenticity of it and for the reality of it and for me understanding the instrument, it's great that I have that facility.
Happy to see that despite the film industry’s glacial pace, we will finally be able to see the fruits of Cheadle’s labor.Indeed, you can help the project through an Indiegogo campaign.
Music has always been one of my passions. Since 6th grade, when I started listening to my parents’ Miles Davis records, his artistry has been an inspiration to me; he was someone who only ever followed a path as a runway to create a new one.
Surprisingly, Miles’ life, his passion, his creativity, his fire have never been brought to life in a film and the fact that his family has chosen me to do this now is an honor.
I want to tell a story that Miles himself would have wanted to see, something hip, cool, alive and AHEAD.
I’ve taken my marching orders from Miles’ mandates (“Play what’s not there.” “Fear no mistakes. There are none.”) and focused in on a very specific point in his life to explore his relationship with his muse, his voice, his fears and challenges to come out of his silent period and return to the music. I'm hopefully making a movie that tells a story many people can relate to, jazz fan or not.
MILES AHEAD is not just about the music. It’s about what we all face at one time or another in our lives; questions about who we really are, what we have to say and how will we say it. How will we ultimately be defined and who gets to say so?
This film is being produced independent of any major studios, so every dollar raised by this campaign is going directly towards the budget. MILES AHEAD has been in development since 2008 and many variables have changed over the years. Location, crew and timelines have impacted the overall budget tremendously. We have an incredible cast now that we're really excited about, including Ewan McGregor. We need the money that we’re asking for to make the film we want to make. If we weren’t crowdfunding, we would have to cut out scenes or characters that we feel really need to be in the movie. That’s why we’re here on Indiegogo and that’s why 100% of the money raised by this campaign will go towards making this film the best film it can possibly be.
I want you to be a part of our journey, our story. Be a part of bringing a great story to life and help us take that experience to the next level.
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