Don Cheadle to Finally Play Musician Miles Davis in ‘Kill The Trumpet Player’

By November 13, 2013


Don Cheadle has been wanting to play Miles Davis on film for years. Cheadle has made his desire so well known that his Ocean’s Eleven co-star George Clooney once pranked him by forging a letter from Brad Pitt saying that Pitt was making a Miles Davis biopic and he wanted Cheadle to star…but as musician Charlie Parker instead of Davis himself. That Clooney – what a jokester. Cheadle’s passion project has been in development for years, and now it’s confirmed that not only will he star as Davis in Kill The Trumpet Player, but he’ll make his feature directorial debut on the movie as well.

According to a press release, Ewan McGregor and Zoe Saldana will co-star alongside Cheadle (who co-wrote the screenplay with Steven Baigelman). The film “tells the story of a few dangerous days in the life of Miles Davis, the virtuoso, fighter and genius, as he bursts out of his silent period and conspires with a Rolling Stone writer (McGregor) to steal back his music.” Herbie Hancock, a legendary musician in his own right and Davis’ close collaborator, will contribute to the film in some way as well. (In what capacity, exactly, is yet to be revealed.)

Miles Davis

Thankfully, since the story only covers a few days in Davis’ life, we won’t have to go through the slog of hitting all of the traditional biopic moments that we seem to see every time a musician gets a movie made about his life. Cheadle spoke about the movie with Shockya a couple of years ago (via /Film):

It’s actually during his silent period. It’s a very interesting take on the genre, to me. And that’s why I’m excited about it, because it’s not a cradle-to-grave, right-down-the-middle story where you’re [hitting all these biographical] benchmarks, like when he met Charlie Bird, and was introduced to John Coltrane. It’s not trying to be what I think a PBS show could do much better, which is an overview of Miles Davis’ life. It’s a movie that Miles Davis would have wanted to star in…Miles Davis was relevant as a musician for 40 years. Where do you get in and out? How do you do that without giving every bit of his life short shrift? So we didn’t want to try to cram into a 90-minute movie, or even 120-minute movie, every bit of information that we could. We wanted to create a piece of art, a piece of film, that would intrigue people and maybe want to make them do their own investigations of his life, and decide what his life and music meant to them…Music was where Miles lived, so it’s not about some staid piece of history, it’s about now.

Sounds good to us, and I’m always glad to see an actor get to finally make a passion project that’s been in the works for years. This one will be especially interesting since Cheadle will be getting behind the camera for the first time, so we’ll see if working with great filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh, Shane Black, Carl Franklin, Brian De Palma, and Paul Thomas Anderson has rubbed off on him.

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Ben is a writer living in Los Angeles, California. His work has been featured at,,,, and many more sites across the web. Some of his favorite movies include The Rocketeer, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Tombstone, Lucky Number Slevin, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Collateral, Double Indemnity, Back to the Future and The Prestige. Follow him on Twitter: @BenPears.