January 31, 2005: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: Movies: Music: Hollywood: Redlands Daily Facts: Taylor Hackford's long journey to make 'Ray' may end in Oscar glory

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Bolivia: Special Report: Screenwriter, Director, and Bolivia RPCV Taylor Hackford: January 31, 2005: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: Movies: Music: Hollywood: Redlands Daily Facts: Taylor Hackford's long journey to make 'Ray' may end in Oscar glory

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-48-182.balt.east.verizon.net - on Friday, February 04, 2005 - 6:46 pm: Edit Post

Taylor Hackford's long journey to make 'Ray' may end in Oscar glory

Taylor Hackford's long journey to make 'Ray' may end in Oscar glory

Taylor Hackford's long journey to make 'Ray' may end in Oscar glory

Soul man

Taylor Hackford's long journey to make 'Ray' may end in Oscar glory

By Rob Lowman
Entertainment Editor

It wasn't long into the making of "Ray," the first of the Oscar best picture nominees out on DVD, that Taylor Hackford got some directing advice from Ray Charles.

At the time, the director ("An Officer and a Gentleman," "The Devil's Advocate") and the musical legend were in the studio recording vocals for scenes in which Charles (played by Jamie Foxx) would be in a room just singing alone or rehearsing with someone else. Later, after the scenes were filmed, Charles' versions were dubbed in for Foxx's voice.

"At the beginning, when we'd talk about film, Ray would defer to me because it wasn't his medium. But when we went in the studio together, that was tough, that was his turf. And he is the king and the master of his world," says the 60-year-old Hackford, talking the day after he had gotten his first Oscar directing nomination.

"When I went in the beginning, I would describe the scene to him and how I saw it. The problem was when he first played it, it wasn't right. And I'd say, 'Gee, Ray, I think it needs to be more intimate.' And he'd say, 'Hey, Taylor, I played it exactly as you described it, and I don't have all day. I'm not going to sit in here and waste my time. You got to get more precise.' And he was right."

Hackford says that at that time Charles was quite vibrant and "a man very much in control of all his faculties and powers." Hackford didn't see him again until after shooting the film, when he showed the singer a rough cut.

"He was sick and deteriorating. It was incredibly painful. I described to him the scenes visually, and he listened to the film. He loved it. He really loved it. It was a fantastically gratifying moment for me. But painful also." Charles died last June, before the film's fall release.

While getting films made is never easy, getting "Ray" to the screen was a marathon. Hackford met Charles in 1987 when he tried to get the rights to his life story. The legend, as Hackford describes the singer, was not an easy person, "but nobody that accomplished is that easy." After a while, a trust developed between Charles and Hackford, who was determined to show in the film the complexities and dark sides of the singer's life, including his heroin addiction and infidelities. "In fact, the first time you meet the adult Ray in the movie," Hackford says, "he's telling a lie to get on a bus from Florida to Seattle.

"Ray was from the segregated South; he knew how to survive," explains Hackford. "And in this instance, what I wanted to show was what this man was thinking - that he was bound and determined to get there. And if he had to tell a little fib to do so, he still got to Seattle."

(After reading the script, Charles only made two factual changes.)

"The great thing about Ray Charles ... whatever he went after, he just bared his soul - kind of interpreting America to America and to the rest of the world," says Hackford. "He kind of had this ability to feel something whether you're black or white and express it through his voice and capture us all. He especially captured me."

Still, for more than a decade, the director couldn't get any studio interested in the project. Finally, Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz gave him the $35 million needed to make the picture. "The film is really the only independent film among the Oscar best picture nominees because it didn't have a studio distributor," notes Hackford. Even after after making the film, it took time to get a studio to bite.

When asked why a story about Ray Charles was such a hard sell, Hackford simply sighs.

"It's a very strange situation. I had the script. I thought it was a compelling script. I don't know why they wouldn't step up then. And then the film was paid for, and Phil Anschutz was willing to pay for part of the promotion and advertising ... and they still wouldn't take a chance. I just think that there is not a huge amount of vision out there. ... Bottom line is that it didn't make any sense to me because the film you see now is what the studios looked at. And only Universal stepped up."

The next challenge was finding someone who could play Charles. "You have a big burden. Ray Charles is known by everybody. They know what he looks like, they know how he moves, they know how he sounds."

Hackford says that he approached Foxx, who had the right look, because he saw Foxx was a good actor and more than a comedian. But he wondered if Foxx could carry a movie. When the director met the actor and found out how "incredibly intelligent" he was and that he had gone to college on a classical piano scholarship, that cinched it.

"What I learned spending years working with Ray Charles was that Ray trusted his instincts better than anyone I ever met. I took a page out of his book and said, 'It just feels right,' and I never looked at another guy."

But Hackford, who produced the Ritchie Valens biopic "La Bamba," knew that making a film about an African-American icon such as Charles was bound to attract criticism and that it was important that he and Foxx be on the same page.

"I told Jamie, 'We have to form a partnership here because otherwise we're both in deep s---. You're a black man having to portray a hugely famous icon, and you can't spend the rest of your life walking into the black community hearing them say, "Gee, Jamie I guess you just couldn't do it." And I'm a white man who doesn't want to look at every black friend who says, 'How dare you? How could you (screw) that up?' So, effectively, from the moment I went with Jamie, we've been doing this together."

Foxx, for his part, told Interview magazine that Hackford "knows how to put a film together. ... He knew everything about Ray, and he loved the music ... (and) Taylor, knowing that he had the reins of this movie, really listened. He listened to suggestions that I had about things like casting - that if you cast this movie the 'wrong' black Hollywood way, the project was not going to be what it could be."

"I wanted everybody - white, black, blue, green - to appreciate this story, but I particularly wanted a black audience to be able to accept it," says Hackford. "I didn't want them to look at this and say, 'Baloney. This is a sham and not a great portrayal of our culture.' But they have embraced the film phenomenally."

A Peace Corps volunteer in the '60s, Hackford has been making features since the 1980 music- themed film "The Idolmaker," but he's also done his fair share of producing, including the documentary "When We Were Kings," as well as waiting for projects to get off the ground.

"If you won't go out and just work by assignment, you suffer, and if you want to make every film your own - you wait."

Now Hackford is anxious to get to his next project (one of the possibilities involves his wife, Helen Mirren, whom he directed in the 1985 "White Nights.") But first he will do the Oscar dance. (He actually owns a statuette for a short he did in 1978.)

"Whenever you start these things, you hope they'll stand the test of time, and I hope this film's going to. Twenty years from now, we'll see. Whatever wins, wins," says Hackford. "It's the films that stay in people's minds (that count). I know that Ray Charles will really help this film."

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

RPCVs mobilize support for Countries of Service Date: January 30 2005 No: 405 RPCVs mobilize support for Countries of Service
RPCV Groups mobilize to support their Countries of Service. Over 200 RPCVS have already applied to the Crisis Corps to provide Tsunami Recovery aid, RPCVs have written a letter urging President Bush and Congress to aid Democracy in Ukraine, and RPCVs are writing NBC about a recent episode of the "West Wing" and asking them to get their facts right about Turkey.
RPCVs contend for Academy Awards  Date: January 31 2005 No: 416 RPCVs contend for Academy Awards
Bolivia RPCV Taylor Hackford's film "Ray" is up for awards in six categories including best picture, best actor and best director. "Autism Is a World" co-produced by Sierra Leone RPCV Douglas Biklen and nominated for best Documentary Short Subject, seeks to increase awareness of developmental disabilities. Colombian film "El Rey," previously in the running for the foreign-language award, includes the urban legend that PCVs teamed up with El Rey to bring cocaine to U.S. soil.

January 29, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: January 29 2005 No: 395 January 29, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
UPI says Suicides lower in Iraq after Lariam discontinued 28 Jan
Chris Starace makes DVD about life in Benin 28 Jan
Gaddi Vasquez tours Sri Lanka 27 Jan
Tom Hazuka receives writer's award 27 Jan
Raymond Wacks to oversee Baltimore's budget 27 Jan
L. A. Adams provides online assistance to village of Cochiraya 27 Jan
New blog helps prospective PCVs apply to PC 27 Jan
RPCV writes open letter to "West Wing" on Turkey episode 26 Jan
PC moves Guyana Volunteers from Flooding Areas 26 Jan
Taylor Hackford's 'Ray' scores six Oscar nominations 26 Jan
State building in Georgia may be named for Coverdell 25 Jan
Nick Craw to head Automobile Competition Committee 25 Jan
Peace Corps Announces Top Colleges 24 Jan
RPCV Francis J. Thomas was WWII Pearl Harbor vet 24 Jan
PC crafts strategy for Deborah Gardner murder case 23 Jan
Senator Bill Nelson says expand PC in South America 23 Jan
George Wallace is county's first poet laureate 20 Jan

Ask Not Date: January 18 2005 No: 388 Ask Not
As our country prepares for the inauguration of a President, we remember one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century and how his words inspired us. "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."
Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion Date: January 8 2005 No: 373 Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion
Senator Norm Coleman, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps, says in an op-ed, A chance to show the world America at its best: "Even as that worthy agency mobilizes a "Crisis Corps" of former Peace Corps volunteers to assist with tsunami relief, I believe an opportunity exists to rededicate ourselves to the mission of the Peace Corps and its expansion to touch more and more lives."
RPCVs active in new session of Congress Date: January 8 2005 No: 374 RPCVs active in new session of Congress
In the new session of Congress that begins this week, RPCV Congressman Tom Petri has a proposal to bolster Social Security, Sam Farr supported the objection to the Electoral College count, James Walsh has asked for a waiver to continue heading a powerful Appropriations subcommittee, Chris Shays will no longer be vice chairman of the Budget Committee, and Mike Honda spoke on the floor honoring late Congressman Robert Matsui.
RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid  Date: January 4 2005 No: 366 Latest: RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid
Peace Corps made an appeal last week to all Thailand RPCV's to consider serving again through the Crisis Corps and more than 30 RPCVs have responded so far. RPCVs: Read what an RPCV-led NGO is doing about the crisis an how one RPCV is headed for Sri Lanka to help a nation he grew to love. Question: Is Crisis Corps going to send RPCVs to India, Indonesia and nine other countries that need help?
The World's Broken Promise to our Children Date: December 24 2004 No: 345 The World's Broken Promise to our Children
Former Director Carol Bellamy, now head of Unicef, says that the appalling conditions endured today by half the world's children speak to a broken promise. Too many governments are doing worse than neglecting children -- they are making deliberate, informed choices that hurt children. Read her op-ed and Unicef's report on the State of the World's Children 2005.

Read the stories and leave your comments.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: Redlands Daily Facts

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



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.