It seems like it has been a couple years since I heard whispers of two jazz related films that were in pre-production. I hadn’t heard anything about either of these projects in a while, and decided to do some digging.
The first film I originally heard about from Abe Beeson on Evening Jazz a couple years ago. He had mentioned that Josh Hartnett (Pearl Harbor, Lucky Number Slevin) would play Chet Baker in a film called The Prince of Cool.
The concept of this film surfaced during the same time that the life of musicians Ray Charles and Johnny Cash were being put on the silver screen, becoming huge cinematic hits.
The problem, as it turns appears, is that the reasons that producers wanted to create a Chet Baker biopic and the reasons Josh Hartnett wanted to create a Chet Baker biopic were completely different. While producers wanted to rush a project in order to capitalize on the Ray and Walk the Line bandwagon, Josh Hartnett claims that he wanted to dedicate a significant amount of time and thought to the project, making it unique and original. Because Hartnett (apparently a huge jazz fan), and the producers could not come to agreement on their differences, Hartnett withdrew from the project and that is that.
The second film of note accumulated press in 2006 upon the announcement of it, but there has been little word of it since. The film is called The Jazz Ambassadors, and is set to star Morgan Freeman as Duke Ellington.
This is not so much of a biography of Duke, as it is a look at what role members of Duke’s entourage might have had in the 1963 coup let by the CIA in Iraq.
That’s right. It is suggested that the CIA planted spies within Duke’s band as they toured the Middle East. While your first reaction might be “yeah right”, U.S. State Department official Tom Simons, who toured with Duke’s band in the Middle East, is working on the project.
Maybe “working on the project” is a loose term to use, as I struggled to find much work being done on the project announced three years ago at all. Freeman (who I think would make an excellent Ellington) is involved on a variety of other projects currently, as is the designated director of the film, and the only suggested release date I came up with is 2011, posted on IMDB.com.