October 29, 2004: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: Movies: Music: Hollywood: Seattle Post Intelligencer: An Interview with RPCV Taylor Hackford about his movie "Ray"

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Bolivia: Peace Corps Bolivia : The Peace Corps in Bolivia: October 29, 2004: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: Movies: Music: Hollywood: Seattle Post Intelligencer: An Interview with RPCV Taylor Hackford about his movie "Ray"

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An Interview with RPCV Taylor Hackford about his movie "Ray"

An Interview with RPCV Taylor Hackford about his movie Ray

An Interview with RPCV Taylor Hackford about his movie "Ray"

16-year gestation for 'Ray' led to a more intimate story


Taylor Hackford is a 59-year-old movie director who graduated from USC with a degree in international relations, served two years with the Peace Corps in Bolivia, and spent his film apprenticeship making TV documentaries. He's been a major Hollywood player since "An Officer and a Gentleman" (filmed in Port Townsend) in 1982, but his films have an idealistic streak and have tended to reflect the values and concerns of the '60s generation: rock music, New Left politics and minority rights. Born in Santa Barbara, Hackford now lives in London with his wife, actress Helen Mirren. In Seattle earlier this month to promote "Ray," he sat for an interview in a posh, upstairs lounge of the Experience Music Project.

P-I: This movie has been in the works for 16 years. What took you so long?

Hackford: Nobody wanted to finance it. The studios all thought there was no audience for a music biography, particularly of a black musician.

So where did you get the money?

It ultimately came from one man, who happened to be very wealthy and a very big fan of Ray Charles. He sat down and wrote us a check for $34 million.

So "Ray" is a truly independent film?

Almost too independent. Even after we finished it, no studio wanted it. They watched it in their screening rooms as they talked on their cell phones and decided it wasn't commercial. Finally, Ron Meyer at Universal -- also a big fan of Ray -- agreed to see it with an audience. That experience totally turned him around and his studio got enthusiastically behind it.

Were there any advantages to having such a long and troubled gestation period?

In at least one sense, yes. The movie is based on Ray's autobiography, but I got to know him so well over the years that many of the most intimate and revealing parts of the script were taken from stories he told me sort of offhand. Stories that were not in his book, or anywhere else.

Is it true that you taped Jamie's eyes shut so he could learn to react like a blind person?

It wasn't tape. We had a prosthetic made for him that made his face look more like Ray and it also covered his eyes so he couldn't see.

The movie has an unusual number of strong woman performances. Sharon Warren, who played Ray's mother, was phenomenal. Where did you find her?

She was my big discovery. She'd done some theater but had never been in a film before. She came in for an open audition in Atlanta -- a total unknown -- and gave such an impressive reading that she was cast on the spot. That happens about once in a lifetime.

Where did you find those two gorgeous color archival shots of Seattle in the '40s?

We actually got them from a company in Chicago. We looked all over Seattle but couldn't find anything usable. By the way, that footage was 8mm, blown up and digitally reworked.

Did you ever consider shooting in Seattle?

Not really. We were on such a tight budget that we knew we had to shoot almost everything in California or in Louisiana, which gave us a tax credit that was worth about $2 million. The building we used for the Rocking Chair Club (a '40s Seattle nightclub) was in South Central L.A.

The concert scenes are particularly stirring, and you avoided all the clichés of MTV filmmaking. How did you manage that?

Well, I've done a lot of concert scenes in my time, both documentary and staged, so I've learned a thing or two. But it's mostly just the Ray Charles music. It's so great that you don't have to do too much to make a performance scene come alive.

What's next for you?

A. I'm married to one of the world's great actresses so I'm looking for something to do with her. But whatever the project is, it's going to have to be something a little easier. "Ray" was a real workout, and I don't have another 16 years to give to a movie.

When this story was posted in October 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Kerry reaches out to Returned Volunteers Kerry reaches out to Returned Volunteers
The Kerry campaign wants the RPCV vote. Read our interview with Dave Magnani, Massachusetts State Senator and Founder of "RPCVs for Kerry," and his answers to our questions about Kerry's plan to triple the size of the Peace Corps, should the next PC Director be an RPCV, and Safety and Security issues. Then read the "RPCVs for Kerry" statement of support and statements by Dr. Robert Pastor, Ambassador Parker Borg, and Paul Oostburg Sanz made at the "RPCVs for Kerry" Press Conference.

RPCV Carl Pope says the key to winning this election is not swaying undecided voters, but persuading those already willing to vote for your candidate to actually go to the polls.

Take our poll and tell us what you are doing to support your candidate.

Finally read our wrap-up of the eight RPCVs in Senate and House races around the country and where the candidates are in their races.

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PCOL sits down for an extended interview with Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez. Read the entire interview from start to finish and we promise you will learn something about the Peace Corps you didn't know before.

Plus the debate continues over Safety and Security.
Schwarzenegger praises PC at Convention Schwarzenegger praises PC at Convention
Governor Schwarzenegger praised the Peace Corps at the Republican National Convention: "We're the America that sends out Peace Corps volunteers to teach village children." Schwarzenegger has previously acknowledged his debt to his father-in-law, Peace Corps Founding Director Sargent Shriver, for teaching him "the joy of public service" and Arnold is encouraging volunteerism by creating California Service Corps and tapping his wife, Maria Shriver, to lead it. Leave your comments and who can come up with the best Current Events Funny?
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Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and can you come up with a Political Funny?

Read the stories and leave your comments.

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Story Source: Seattle Post Intelligencer

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Bolivia; Movies; Music; Hollywood



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