Miles Davis has been an inspiration to actor Don Cheadle since he was 10 years old. To Cheadle, the jazz legend was a ‘symbol of creative energy and power’ and someone who was never afraid to step out of his comfort zone. It’s a quality that the musician and actor have in common, as Cheadle took on the role of both director and star of biopic Miles Ahead.

Don Cheadle Miles AheadDon Cheadle in Miles Ahead.

During the filming of Miles Ahead, Cheadle spent most of his time steeped in the role, but as the film’s director, sometimes he found himself having to break character to remind people who was in charge.

“I stayed (in character) for as long as I could, but sometimes I would have to come out of character in order to be heard,” Cheadle said. “People used to call Miles ‘chief,’ because he was always running the show. In directing, I connected myself to that part of Miles.”

“I figured if I was going to depict who he was, I would have to do it the way Miles would have done it.” With the support of Davis’ family, Cheadle was able to make the tough decisions, just as the trumpeter would have done.

“I took it as far as I could. If I thought a scene was too conventional and I wasn’t scared, I knew I had to go here,” he added. “Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter (who appear in the ‘concert’ at the end of the film) said it was the only way to tell Miles’ story. His family did as well.”

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It’s a story that Cheadle has always wanted to tell and he’s been a fan of Davis since he was 10. “I’ve been steeped in Miles Davis’ music since the age of ten,” Cheadle said. “He is so many things, not the least of which is an indefatigable symbol of creative energy and power; someone who was never afraid to step out of his comfort zone; someone who was totally uncomfortable with stasis.”

The film focuses on the period of Davis’ life he spent with dancer Frances Taylor, but it uses music from throughout his career to tell his story. "We used music from every era and every style of Miles’ life and we wrote and shot the scenes to that music,” Cheadle explained.

“We didn’t hamstring ourselves by only using pieces from one particular era because throughout his life, Miles wrote soundtrack. His music reflected the era in which he wrote it, but was often ahead of the period. He hated the term jazz. He preferred ‘social music’."

The film also stars Ewan McGregor as music reporter Dave Braden, who finds himself on an bizarre adventure with Davis over a few days in the late 1970s, when the musician was taking a break from public life. Miles Ahead hits theatres on April 1st.

Watch the trailer for Miles Ahead here: