Don Cheadle: Casting A White Actor In New Film Was A ‘Financial Imperative’
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

It has taken Don Cheadle a decade to get the green light for Miles Ahead, a biopic about Miles Davis. The actor recently told the audience at the Berlin Film Festival that it wouldn’t have happened without a white actor as part of the cast. 

“There is a lot of apocryphal, not proven evidence that black films don’t sell overseas… Having a white actor in this film turned out to actually be a financial imperative.”

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Before rewriting the script and casting Ewan McGregor as a Rolling Stone reporter, Cheadle did everything possible to get the film off the ground, including crowdfunding and investing his own money. It still wasn’t enough and studios weren’t interested, so Cheadle added a white character. 

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“I wanted it to be a movie that Miles Davis would want to star in. He would have laughed at it, he would’ve dug it and been like ‘That’s slick, I didn’t do that—that’s bullshit—but I like that’, that’s what I wanted – a movie that felt like the experience I have when I listen to his music… I wanted to do something explosive, exciting, that felt like a ride and felt impressionistic and free form because that’s what his music does to me.”

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Cheadle further added, “I think it works great, and particularly the fact that Ewan McGregor is the actor who is in it, I think he is fantastic in the movie. But that was a component of… allowing us to even have a budget to get the film made.”

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