In the Fast-Paced and Unconventional Biopic Miles Ahead, Don Cheadle Takes Control of Miles Davis

It’s the actor’s directorial debut

It was appropriate that Live Talks Los Angeles choose to chat with writer/director/actor Don Cheadle, star of the unconventional biopic Miles Ahead (April 1), at the New Roads School. As with jazz, the school encourages improvisation; on top of that, one of the school’s benefactors is genre great Herb Alpert. And, as it turns out, Cheadle was at one point a New Roads School parent. Connections all around!

Cheadle, who not only plays the titular character but also co-wrote the script, sat down with KTLA’s Sam Rubin to talk about his directorial debut (yup, he directed it, too). We rounded up his six most interesting comments from the evening:

Sam Rubin and Don Cheadle discussing the film Miles Ahead Photograph courtesy Live Talks Los Angeles

On why he didn’t make the usual cradle-to-grave biopic:
“I wanted the movie to feel like you were walking inside a Miles Davis composition.”

On how he raised the $8.5 million budget:
“I had to Crowdfund, I had to spend that Marvel money. Kevin Hart gave us money.”

On the three things that made it difficult to fund a ’70s-era film about Miles Davis:
“Jazz. Period. Black.”

On what finally convinced him to play Davis after years of hearing that he should:
Tootie Health helped set up my drum set, and he looked at me and said, ‘You ever think of playing Miles Davis?’ I felt for years that Miles was moving towards me.”

On what it was like playing with the incredible musicians in the film:
“I’m playing the solo, but it’s not my sound,” Cheadle said of his perfect trumpet fingerings in the film during a clip. “The most fun I’ve ever had in my life is with musicians.”

On who settled his fears the first time he screened the film at the New York Film Festival:
“The person who put my mind right was my 19-year-old daughter. She said, ‘Dad, you’re here. You did it. There’s nothing else to do. I remember sitting on your lap in fourth grade while you were working on this on your computer and listening to Miles going to school.’”