Don Cheadle says his Miles Davis film meant to show full legacy

Thu Feb 18, 2016 4:31pm EST
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BERLIN (Reuters) - Actor Don Cheadle said on Thursday that in his biopic of Miles Davis he chose to focus on the latter years of the great jazz trumpeter's career because it was a way into the broader legacy of the man considered one of the alltime best jazz musicians.

Cheadle's "Miles Ahead", in which he plays Davis and which he also directed, was shown on the sidelines of the Berlin International Film Festival.

It focuses mainly on a period when Davis had not made a record for several years and was in dispute with his record company, Columbia, over having failed to live up to the terms of his contract.

"I felt like it would give me the opportunity to look at all of the decades, it would give me the opportunity to be expansive as opposed to reductive," Cheadle told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.

"You just start giving short shrift to all of the eras as opposed to putting the music front and center and letting that music from any era and any decade push us through. So I think by focusing on the specific it gave me the ability to be very expressive and talk about any part of the film and any part in his library and his discography that I wanted to.”

Appearing in Berlin the same week that director Spike Lee was here to promote his film "Chi-Raq", Cheadle said he generally agreed with Lee's public criticism of the lack of diversity in the Hollywood Academy Award nominations for best actor this year, with not a single black among the candidates.

"I mean if you had asked if, you know, the industry was good for black people in the '70s I'd say yes it was. And then it wasn't again. And in around the mid-'80s it was and then it wasn't again."

"You know, these are pendulum swings and we revisit times when diversity is something that is a big issue and for awhile Asian, you know, Asians were represented in a way in studio films that were much more represented than they are now," he added.

"So diversity is not just about black and white, it's about the multiplicity of ethnicities and stories from all over the world."

(Reporting by Swantje Stein; Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Susan Thomas)

Director Don Cheadle addresses a news conference to promote the movie 'Miles Ahead' at the 66th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, February 18, 2016.     REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch