October 17, 2004: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: Movies: Music: Hollywood: zap 2 it: Taylor Hackford, director of "Ray," is among the executive producers of the "Genius" special, and his star, Jamie Foxx, is host for the evening

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Bolivia: Peace Corps Bolivia : The Peace Corps in Bolivia: October 17, 2004: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: Movies: Music: Hollywood: zap 2 it: Taylor Hackford, director of "Ray," is among the executive producers of the "Genius" special, and his star, Jamie Foxx, is host for the evening

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Taylor Hackford, director of "Ray," is among the executive producers of the "Genius" special, and his star, Jamie Foxx, is host for the evening

Taylor Hackford, director of Ray, is among the executive producers of the Genius special, and his star, Jamie Foxx, is host for the evening

Taylor Hackford, director of "Ray," is among the executive producers of the "Genius" special, and his star, Jamie Foxx, is host for the evening

Stars Gather to Celebrate Ray Charles
(Sunday, October 17 12:02 AM)
By John Crook
LOS ANGELES (Zap2it.com) Some of today's hottest music superstars gather to celebrate the memory of a beloved peer in "Genius: A Night for Ray Charles," a two-hour "entertainment special," premiering Friday, Oct. 22, on CBS.

Taped two weeks earlier at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the program will feature a diverse slate of performers and celebrities who say they were influenced by the versatile Charles, who died of liver failure last June at age 73. Given that the 12-time Grammy Award winner triumphed across the music spectrum, with hits in the R&B, pop, country and rock genres, it may not be surprising that the evening's musical lineup ranges from Mary J. Blige to Norah Jones, Reba McEntire to Elton John.

Others scheduled to perform include Kenny Chesney, Al Green, B.B. King, Usher and Stevie Wonder. Additionally, Mos Def, Quincy Jones and Bruce Willis will be on hand to introduce performances.



Among the Ray Charles songs on the program are "Georgia on My Mind," "Hit the Road Jack," "Night Time Is the Right Time," "I Can't Stop Lovin' You" and "Unchain My Heart." The special also includes video clips of Charles' long and varied career, interspersed with other film clips from the upcoming feature film biography "Ray," which opens nationally on Oct. 29.

Taylor Hackford, that film's director, is among the executive producers of the "Genius" special, and his star, Jamie Foxx, is host for the evening. While the actor and comic made recent headlines performing duets with Kevin Spacey at September's Toronto Film Festival, however, Foxx says he'll be taking a much more low-key role in the CBS entertainment.

"Basically my job is to serve as a facilitator," Foxx explains. "I mean, we have people who have known Ray Charles for 30 or 40 years. We want to give them a chance to pay homage to Ray Charles in whatever way they see fit.

"These are all people with their own stories or music to share. I'm there just to say a few words as needed here and there through the show, to make sure it all moves smoothly.

"Taylor Hackford, who directed the film, also has had this special in mind for a long time, and we want to make it clear that these people are getting together because they actually knew Ray Charles."

Like the feature film, the CBS special also will trace Charles' rise from his poverty-stricken Georgia roots to superstardom, as recalled by Jones, King and David "Fathead" Newman.

The late singer, composer and pianist developed his gift for music as a child, driven by a strong-willed mother who insisted that he make his own way in the world, even after losing his sight to glaucoma at age 7.

"When I put those prosthetics into my eyes so I couldn't see, that's when I really started feeling a sense of what he had to go through," Foxx says. "One thing that was so great is that Ray Charles was still alive when we finished filming, so he was able to be at a screening. It was so beautiful that he was able to get his flowers, you know, before he left us, and for his family, and for everyone who had been working on this film.

"'Ray' started out as this little independent film with no distribution, and it's just been beautiful to see it come together like this."

While Foxx says he sympathizes with how hard Hackford had to work to get backing and distribution deals for this project, he freely admits he's glad "Ray" didn't get made any earlier.

"Taylor Hackford has been carrying around the idea for this movie for 15 years," Foxx explains. "Luckily for me, they didn't find anyone to play Ray until I came along. The stars finally lined up right, and the script was right, so that's why this movie is happening now."

The film received a sneak preview at September's 34th Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, D.C., where audiences gave "Ray" an enthusiastic reception.

"It was incredible, just extraordinary," Foxx recalls. "People were dancing in the aisles. This movie really takes you on a ride, and at the end they gave it a standing ovation. Here in Los Angeles, people are stopping me everywhere I go, in stores, wherever, and saying `I cannot wait for this movie.' It's just incredible how it's all coming together, and it feels like it's going to be huge."

Even before the film officially opens, strong Oscar buzz is building for Foxx's performance in the title role. The actor insists, however, that he didn't think in terms of that kind of reaction when the project came his way.

"When I first looked at doing this project, it was mainly because I was interested in doing more drama, and that was the big appeal," he says.

"I didn't really think in terms of how this could be an 'important' role for me. That's something I've kind of become aware of only as I'm looking back, and I go, 'Wow.' Because there were so many hurdles they had to get over for this picture to be made: money, distribution, everything. That's why it's so thrilling to see it finally taking off like it seems to be."

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

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Story Source: zap 2 it

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