While buyers are poring over Toronto scripted films and promos including Jackie, Colossal and Rebel in the Rye, the documentary category is starting to look interesting. Buyers are circling Chasing Trane, the docu on jazz icon John Coltrane. It’s directed by John Scheinfeld, who found himself facing a vexing creative dilemma that wasn’t there when he helmed The U.S. Vs John Lennon. “He never did a TV interview, and there were only a handful of radio interviews and the sound wasn’t good enough to use,” Scheinfeld said. He found an intriguing alternative, getting Denzel Washington to take on the voice of Coltrane, in print interviews he gave during his career. Scheinfeld felt that Washington’s way of delivering lines is itself a form of jazz, and the director was determined to get the Oscar-winning actor. “The characters Denzel has played display this quiet strength, and so many people told me that Coltrane projected the same quality. So it had to be him. I found a way to get to him, and what came back to me was that he was intrigued and wanted to talk. I laid out my vision, and he liked it but said, ‘I got to see it.’ I sent him a secure link of the cut where it was. Four days go by and now I’m convinced he hated it. The phone rings, there’s no caller ID, and he doesn’t say, ‘Hello, it’s Denzel.’ His first words are, ‘It’s beautiful brother. When are you coming to Pittsburgh? That’s where he was shooting Fences. So I go, and I set up this high stool in front of a music stand, the way you would in a traditional voiceover. He said, ‘I don’t want to do that way. These are words Coltrane spoke in an interview, and I’d like to imagine an interview sitting across the table because if those tapes existed, this is how Coltrane would have sounded.’ That was his interpretation, and he brought this quiet strength that just nailed who Coltrane was. His voice just draws you in, and you feel like you know Coltrane because Denzel didn’t do it as narration. It was Coltrane, speaking.” The film had its first screening today and plays numerous times over the weekend as WME Global handles distribution.
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