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John H. Armwood Jazz History Lecture Nashville's Cheekwood Arts Center 1989

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Variety - Cheadle jazzed for Davis biopic

Cheadle jazzed for Davis biopic

Actor will produce, direct, star in film

Don Cheadle

Don Cheadle has solidified five feature film projects that he'll produce and star in. Among them is a biopic of jazz legend Miles Davis, on which he plans to make his feature directing debut.

Cheadle, who is being honored today as ShoWest male star of the year, has set up the projects through Crescendo Prods., the shingle in which he partners with longtime managers Kay Liberman and Lenore Zerman.

"Nixon" scribes Stephen J. Rivele and Chris Wilkinson are penning the Davis film, and Liberman and Zerman said they have secured music and life rights to the jazz legend, with whom Cheadle has long been intrigued.

"Miles pushed the envelope and was never satisfied and kept evolving," Liberman said.

Crescendo's producing with Cary Brokaw and Vince Wilburn Jr. and Darryl Porter of Miles Davis Properties. They have waited to complete the package before bringing it to financiers, with Cheadle aboard to direct.

Other projects on Crescendo's slate:

  • "Traitor" is a politically charged drama that was written and will be directed by Jeff Nachmanoff ("The Day After Tomorrow"). Overture's Chris McGurk and Danny Rosett are negotiating to finance a film that Crescendo will produce with Mandeville's David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman.

Cheadle will star as an operative embedded in a terrorist organization who becomes the target of federal agents; they fear he's crossed the line and actually become a terrorist himself.

  • "Quest to Ref" is a comic vehicle for Cheadle, scripted by Ben Watkins and Guy Guillet. Story concerns a disenchanted lawyer who follows his life dream to become a pro basketball ref.
  • Peter Biegen-scripted drama "Broken Adonis" has Michael Apted attached to direct. Crescendo will produce with Apted, Jeanney Kim and Sandy Kroopf. Story concerns an ex-con (Cheadle) who forms an unlikely relationship with a border patrol officer and her young informant.
  • Cheadle continues to work with "Ocean's" co-star Brad Pitt's Plan B and Reason Pictures on "Marching Powder," a fact-based story of a drug dealer who spent five years as a tour guide in the notorious San Pedro Prison in Bolivia. Cheadle will play the tour guide.

In addition Cheadle is producing, with "Crash" cohort Cathy Schulman and Jonathan Mark Harris, the Participant/Warner Independent docu "An Indifferent World," which is already in production. Cheadle is one of five subjects of the film who are trying to address genocide in Darfur. Ted Braun is directing and is in the Sudan shooting the film.

Cheadle, who made his producing debut on "Crash," is also co-writing the upcoming Hyperion book "Not on Our Watch," a handbook for activism that describes his own awakening to strife in Africa after he starred in "Hotel Rwanda."

His Crescendo partners said that while Cheadle continues to work steadily -- he's about to open opposite Adam Sandler in "Reign Over Me," then reprises in "Ocean's Thirteen" in June and stars in "Talk to Me" in July -- he is determined to be the architect of his future acting opportunities. They recently brought in Arlene Gibbs to be senior veep of production.

"Don has always made strong choices and been very smart about identifying and developing strong material, and that is what drives this company," Zerman said. "In the current climate, coming in with strong projects makes you feel like you're more a master of your own destiny."