Don Cheadle’s film “Miles Ahead” tells the story of a fictional encounter between a Rolling Stone freelancer (Ewan McGregor) and legendary musician Miles Davis (Cheadle). And when we say “Don Cheadle’s film,” we mean it.

“There’s nowhere to hide when you’re the writer and director and producer and actor and you play music in it as well,” Cheadle says. “You can’t point to anyone else and say, ‘Well, actually, that was their decision.’ You’re the final arbiter of everything. That aspect of it is neurosis-making.”

The stress of making “Miles Ahead” certainly took its toll on Cheadle, who also has a demanding gig in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, playing James Rhodes/War Machine.

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“During the middle of the shooting, my wife came and visited and said, ‘You can’t do this again. Not like this.’ ”
Part of the worry came from the fact that “Miles Ahead” had a relatively minuscule budget — less than $10 million, with nearly $350,000 of it raised through an Indiegogo campaign.

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“Doing a low-budget movie, you’re herding cats; things are constantly falling apart at the same time they’re coming together,” says Cheadle, who learned to play trumpet for the part (though it’s Davis who’s heard on the soundtrack). “Worry never left; it was always in the jump seat. But we still all have a job to do and you have to push through and get to the finish line.”
When Cheadle reached that finish line — premiering the film on the closing night of the New York Film Festival in 2015 — he still didn’t feel the race was over.

“I was sitting across from my daughter, who is 19, and she could see the worry etched on my face,” Cheadle says. “She goes, ‘I remember sitting on your lap when I was 10 and you were writing this and talking about it and listening to the music. You’ve done it. It’s great. You should just celebrate it.’ And it was kind of the first time that I was able to shift my brain chemistry around and try and enjoy it, no matter what happens — to just feel a sense of accomplishment.”

More interviews from Kristen Page-Kirby

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