November 1, 2004: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: Movies: Music: Hollywood: Empire Online: Taylor Hackford was around to introduce the film and share a few words on the man, the music, and the film.

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Bolivia: Peace Corps Bolivia : The Peace Corps in Bolivia: November 1, 2004: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: Movies: Music: Hollywood: Empire Online: Taylor Hackford was around to introduce the film and share a few words on the man, the music, and the film.

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Taylor Hackford was around to introduce the film and share a few words on the man, the music, and the film.

Taylor Hackford was around to introduce the film and share a few words on the man, the music, and the film.

Taylor Hackford was around to introduce the film and share a few words on the man, the music, and the film.

Who? Ray

Taylor Hackford on his Ray Charles bio-pic
01 November 2004

If you’re a festival-goer and didn’t have tickets for last nights Times Bfi London Film Festival screening of Ray, we expect you would have been trying to get some rather than parade about in ridiculous costumes and a hollowed out butternut. Jamie Foxx’s performance in the title role is already being touted for an Oscar nod, and besides – who doesn’t love that music? Certainly not Taylor Hackford, who was around to introduce the film, and share a few words on the man, the music, and the film.

All stories start with inspiration, and in this case for Hackford it began when he was a kid. “Ray Charles inspires everybody with his music, and I was no exception. I heard I Got A Woman when I was in the fourth grade, and I loved the sound. My older brother had been a be-bop jazz aficionado, and when he went to the Korean war he left all his records, and I grew up listening to those – from a really young age – five or six and I was listening to Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon and that group. So when I was an adolescent, and when rock 'n' roll broke, I loved Elvis and Little Richard and Chuck Berry, but that was a more kind of adolescent, frenetic sound. Ray Charles was a little more sophisticated. His music was always jazzier, and while the first parts were kind of the hysterics of sex, Ray Charles was the deep, grinding quotient of sex – the real sex, and that always appealed to me.”

Years later, Hackford penned a script and hawked it all around Hollywood, but nobody was buying. This comes as something of a surprise to Empire, who assumed that the story would have been very funding-friendly. “There’s something of a mindset in Hollywood, that says biographies don’t work as feature films – do them as television movies. They don’t belong in movies theatres, and black biopics work even less so, there’s even less interest” he explained. “The other part of it was that the Ray Charles story is quite epic. You start with a kid who didn’t wear shoes until he was seven, to a man who ended up owning jets and having a multi-million dollar corporation and playing for kings and queens. Seven presidents invited him to the White House; it’s a huge story, and they knew that I couldn’t make the film for a dollar ninety five.” In the end, the film came in at $35 million, which is large by independent standards, but these not excessive by Hollywood’s. Still, nobody wanted to take the chance, and it wasn’t until a private investor backed the entire project that things were able to move.

The next challenge was working with the man himself, who was a hard taskmaster. “He was completely involved, from the moment I met with him and had to convince him – Ray Charles is a control freak. He controlled everything in his life, and if you were going to make a film of Ray Charles, or make a record with Ray Charles, then he was going to be in the driver’s seat, at least up to a point, until he realized that you really did have a passion. He was a perfectionist, and he demanded perfection from those around him. He was tough, but I found him incredibly fair, because once I’d convinced him and then had the unenviable task of going back year after year and saying 'Ray, I haven’t been able to find the money' – he could have then dumped us, but I think he knew how passionate we were, and ultimately said 'you know what? It’ll happen when it’s ready', which was not easy for me, but he was very wise. And because it took so long I was able to find Jamie Foxx.”

Indeed, Foxx’s performance alone must have been worth waiting all those years for. Already gaining unanimous plaudits, it’s a remarkable piece of work. Was this palpable on set? “His work was prodigious – because I piled it on him. And he didn’t really reveal the character until we started shooting. He did a little bit here, a little bit there, but by the first day it was very clear, and one of the reasons I knew it was that Ray Charles Jr came running by, so I said “Ray, where are you going?”, to which he said “I can’t take it! That’s my Dad!” So when you have the son of Ray Charles, who grew up in his house, and worked for his Dad, and had a lot of conflicting relationships… when you have him being so affected he can’t stay on the set because Jamie is so like his father, I thought we were on the right track.”

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

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Story Source: Empire Online

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



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