Miles Comes To The Big Screen; Nephew Vincent Wilburn Approves

R.J. DeLuke By

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AAJ: Yeah. Cause his career and his personality had so many facets.

VW: Yeah. This was Don's directorial debut. So he wanted to take another approach to it. Keep it layered, not so much like a bio pic.

AAJ: How did he get involved?

VW: I accepted an award for my uncle, my cousins and I, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame award in 2006. Afterward, when you go backstage to talk to the press, the question came up, 'Who's going to play Miles Davis? Who would you like to play your uncle?' And I said Don Cheadle. But I had never met Don Cheadle. When we got back to L.A., he was shocked too. His agents called our lawyer and we worked out a deal, where we could work together. Once we worked out that Don wanted to do it and he was into it, it was just a matter of getting together. And which approach we wanted to take with the movie. It was Don's directorial debut. He nailed it.

AAJ: How did Cheadle win you over?

VW: Don's an intense cat and a hell of an actor. He played Sammy Davis in The Rat Pack [1998], he did Hotel Rwanda [2004], he did Petey Green in Talk to Me [2007], he was Mouse in Devil in a Blue Dress [1995]. He's an intense, beautiful actor. I thought he could bring it home. Once he signed off and he wanted to do it, that was it.

AAJ: So the estate—you and Erin and Cheryl— were involved right from the start?

VW: Any use of Miles likeness or otherwise, they have to come to the estate. So the estate was into it. It was a no-brainer, once we sat with Don. We didn't just sign the rights off and that's it. Don was very curious to get as many aspects of Miles as he could from Miles sidemen, from the family. The three of us have a different take on Miles. Cheryl is different, his daughter. Me playing in the band. Erin played percussion in the band later, but he's the youngest, so he's got another perspective on his dad.

AAJ: You were involved in the development of the script and the research?

VW: No. Don and Steven Baigelman did the script. I would take iPods over to Don's house so he could get into some of the music. He would want me to speak like Miles, just so he could vibe a little bit of it. We would get tapes of Miles speaking. Then he came up with his interpretation. I thought he nailed it.

AAJ: What's your impression of the movie?

VW: If you go and see the movie, go with an open mind. And try to get something out of it. If the music hits you. Or there was something that Miles did in the movie, and you say, 'Oh, man. Don nailed it.'

I've gotten calls from people who said, 'Miles didn't drive a certain car.' I don't want to give the movie away. But don't go to the movie with those types of thoughts. It's a movie. It's entertaining. Don kicked ass in it. Go with an open mind. Just as you would listen to some music you've never heard of by uncle Miles. His mind was open and evolving. Approach the movie like that. That's my suggestion. It's not a bio pic. It' not like Ray or Walk the Line [movies on Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, respectively]. It's different. Stories inside stories.

AAJ: But Miles on the screen, you think he nailed it.

VW: I think he did.

AAJ: Even though it's not historical, did it touch on different eras?

VW: You gotta see it. Without giving it away. You might get something that I didn't get out of it. The next person might get something that we didn't get out of it. People that saw it today in the screening room walked away and loved it. Everybody I talked to loved it. We received a very positive reaction in New York.

AAJ: Have you heard from other musicians yet?

VW: No. This is the first weekend.

AAJ: Is there music other than Miles' in it?

VW: Robert Glasper composed some music. Then Robert Glasper and Don composed some music. Then we have a track from Pharoahe Monch [a rapper from Queens]. It's hip-hop, jazz, catalog-driven of Miles' original compositions, Wayne's [Shorter] compositions. And [Glasper] did an amazing job on the soundtrack.

AAJ: When Cheadle was playing as Miles, I know he did some wood-shedding to make sure his hands and fingers looked correct. Was it Miles recorded music, or another trumpet player dubbing?

VW: Miles. And some things [Glasper] re- recorded. Don worked with a trumpeter from Los Angeles, Fernando Pullum. So Don got it down.

AAJ: Overall, you think it's going to be well received?

VW: I hope Don wins an Academy Award. He put his heart and soul into it. And financially, he put his money where his mouth is. You've got to realize this cat took it upon himself to direct and star in a movie of a man who changed the course of music six or seven times. That's hard-ass shit to do. That's not an easy task. But Don took it on like a trouper and nailed it.

AAJ: What are you up to these days, musically?

VW: I've got the Miles Electric Band. I've got to meet with an agent on Monday [October 12]. It consists of myself, Darryl Jones, cats who played with Miles.Mino Cinelu, John Beasley, Bobby Irving. There's about 11 of us. The trumpet chair floats. Wallace Roney played with us. Etienne Charles in San Francisco. And we just got back from Poland and we had Christian Scott. The trumpet chair is killing.



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