Rumors of Jazz Movies

31 May

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

5 Responses to “Rumors of Jazz Movies”

  1. Blu Hulk June 1, 2009 at 7:25 am #

    Although I would be more excited to see Freeman as Duke Ellington, I would still check out Hartnett. With so few jazz-based movies being released these days, I feel as if I’d always be willing to go support these kind of films (good or bad…lol)

    Speaking of films, have anyone heard any more info about the upcoming of movies on Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis? Supposedly Forrest Whitaker is going to be Armstrong while I’ve heard that Don Cheadle would be playing Davis. I’m looking forward to these projects!

  2. Егор June 11, 2009 at 4:45 am #

    thanks this post. I made some adjustments

  3. Floyd Webber June 13, 2009 at 6:20 pm #

    I am an old timer and was around in the forties and fifties. I was then and still am an enthusiastic jazz fan, The hotter the better!!! One of the first jazz movies I ever saw was called “Syncopation” It was a real good movie and ever since then I wish I could see it again. Any ideas?

  4. brokenears January 30, 2010 at 3:03 pm #


    Believe it or not, it is 1.29.10 and I have just finished skimming through a few blog entries.

    Chet Baker was quite the subtle image of Cool and West coast Jazz. His horn playing was smokey and his voice pensive. “My Funny Valentine” is a one song I still play the chords differently every time, but never want to settle. His performance is one of the better, due to his vocal phrasing.

    I have begun a blog “Jazz… film… music” and would like to take this opportunity to invite you to go to with your comments.

    I want to locate and participate with bloggers interested in Jazz in film/film on Jazz. And, for any reader out there, please send your comments to this site, which is less than a day old. The site is for a Masters class on Musicians and the Internet and I am very new at blogging.

    So I look forward to finishing this entry so I can go back and continue to read about the Chet Baker and Duke Ellington portraits in Jazz… film… movies.


  5. Jillian Price February 2, 2010 at 10:40 pm #

    hey, i discovered

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