Do not mention the word “biopic” to Don Cheadle. He doesn’t want to hear it. He’s played that tune before, as streetball legend Earl “The Goat” Manigault, Sammy Davis Jr., and of course, his gripping turn as the refugee-sheltering Paul Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda, for which he received a Best Actor Academy Award nomination.
“I keep trying to shoot down ‘biopic’ every time somebody says it, but it doesn’t matter,” says Cheadle. “Every time they say a film about a historical figure, that’s how they categorize it. I’d rather people call it ‘historical fiction’ than a ‘biopic.’”
That’s because Cheadle’s new film Miles Ahead, which he co-wrote, produced, directed, and stars in, isn’t your typical biographical picture. While it borrows its title from Miles Davis’s landmark 1957 album, the movie takes place in the late ’70s—a period where Davis withdrew from the public eye and lived, as Cheadle says, like “the Howard Hughes of jazz,” holed up in his apartment engaging in copious amounts of drugs and sex.
“He was silent for five years. He did not touch his horn or play. He just played organ,” says Cheadle. “Vince [Wilburn Jr., Davis’s nephew] tells the story of how, the moment he tried playing again, his whole embouchure had gone, his facility was gone, and he couldn’t make a note. He just cried like a baby.” Read more