“Sometimes known as the James Dean of jazz, trumpeter Chet Baker was among the most photogenic of jazz musicians. Yet by the time he died in 1988, a descent into heroin addiction had so transformed his once-boyish appearance that he looked decades older than his 58 years.
Baker’s rise and perilous fall is natural fodder for a biopic, and “Born to Be Blue” is a particularly resonant story, providing a meaty role for Ethan Hawke, a veteran actor who is losing the youthful bloom that launched his career.
The film opens in 1966 as Hawke’s Baker lies on the floor of an Italian jail cell, tormented by the hallucination of a tarantula crawling out of his trumpet. He’s bailed out by a Hollywood producer who wants to put him in a movie — about Chet Baker.“