February 25, 2005: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: Movies: Hollywood: Hollywood Reporter: Taylor Hackford found that even after "Ray" was made, however, it still was tough getting a distributor to take it on

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Bolivia: Special Report: Screenwriter, Director, and Bolivia RPCV Taylor Hackford: February 8, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: RPCV Taylor Hackford (Bolivia) : February 25, 2005: Headlines: COS - Bolivia: Movies: Hollywood: Hollywood Reporter: Taylor Hackford found that even after "Ray" was made, however, it still was tough getting a distributor to take it on

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Taylor Hackford found that even after "Ray" was made, however, it still was tough getting a distributor to take it on

Taylor Hackford found that even after Ray was made, however, it still was tough getting a distributor to take it on

Taylor Hackford found that even after "Ray" was made, however, it still was tough getting a distributor to take it on

Reaching screen an ordeal for all five best picture noms

By Martin A. Grove
Oscar ordeals: It's all over but the celebrating for this year's Oscar season.


"Ray" (Universal Pictures, Bristol Bay Productions) -- From the moment it opened last October, "Ray" was generating a best actor Oscar buzz for Jamie Foxx's performance as Ray Charles. At that point, insiders really weren't anticipating that Academy members would also be singing "Ray's" praises for best picture and for Taylor Hackford's directing. Those additional nominations make it even more ironic that so many studios turned down the project when Stuart Benjamin (who produced "Ray" with Hackford, Howard Baldwin and Karen Baldwin) and Hackford originally took it around.

"It was really, really, really a long odyssey," Benjamin told me in a column that ran here Feb. 11. "A friend of mine just asked me did I ever doubt? And the answer is no. Taylor and I got our hands on this project when it came to us in like 1988, after we'd made 'La Bamba.' As you can imagine, after we made 'La Bamba,' everything was coming at us that had a musical quotient to it. We met Ray Charles, Jr. -- he was introduced to us through a mutual friend -- who said, 'Would you consider making a movie about my dad?' We fell all over ourselves (to see) how fast can we do this. Then what we discovered is that it was much easier said than done. Through the years what really happened was that we tried to get in business with a number of studios. Some of them were interested more than others, but ultimately we were just never able to put it together."

What Benjamin said he and Hackford consistently heard from the studios was that the project was "difficult to market, tough subject matter, won't travel foreign (and) may be better off as a TV movie. And I think everybody that we dealt with studio-wise had a degree of skepticism as to whether or not this was a movie that could earn money at the boxoffice. I always believed that this was a really special story and I always believed that if we told this story well people would come and see the movie.

The project finally made it into development, he explained, "because I was in business with Phil Anschutz and Howard Baldwin in a company called Crusader Entertainment (now known as Bristol Bay Productions). It's always been my pet project and I said, 'Let's put it in development here' and they agreed, which was lovely. We hired Jimmy White, who'd been a dear friend of mine for years and who is one of those people who in my heart of hearts I always knew was the right guy to write this piece. And I guess he was. So Phil and Howard stood behind it. And then we got to a point in the process where Taylor was into it, Jamie Foxx was into it, we had a script and Phil couldn't find a studio partner to finance it or co-finance it. And to his everlasting credit -- as far as I'm concerned and everybody (else is who's) associated with the movie -- Phil said, 'I believe in this and I'll put up the money.'

"I think Phil got a lot of advice from a lot of people around town and a lot of people in his Denver offices that he shouldn't do it. The same kind of advice (that Benjamin had been hearing from the studios) -- 'it's a biopic, it's a TV movie, it's all African-Americans,' those kinds of things. And Phil believed and Howard believed and so we got the movie made."

Even after "Ray" was made, however, it still was tough getting a distributor to take it on. "You sit here today and we have done (about) $75 million at the boxoffice. The DVD is selling like hotcakes. We have six Oscar nominations. And I don't know what else I could say. And then you look at this movie and you say, 'What were all these people thinking that they didn't want it when they looked at it as a completed movie?'" Benjamin asked. "But, I think, a lot of the studios had the same kinds of fears and concerns even though the movie was completed that they had had over the last 15 years (when it was looking for financing) -- until Universal stepped up. Those guys loved the movie and, I think, not only did they believe in us and in the movie, but they believed in themselves. Their marketing team believed that they could bring this movie to the marketplace and get people to come to the movie theaters and see it. And they were right."

Asked how Universal came to distribute the picture, Benjamin recalled, "What happened was that we sort of systematically started screening the movie. We had done a research screening of the movie in Kansas City in October of '03. NRG (National Research Group) came in and set it up for us and we did it two nights in a row, back to back. One night with a predominantly African-American audience and the other night in a suburb, which was more diverse ethnically. Both nights, it was huge. Audiences really loved the movie. This was a two hour and forty-five minute version. We were still fussing with it in terms of editorial things. (The final version is) 2:20 or 2:22 plus credits. This was 2:45 without credits. But the audience loved it.

"So we did a little bit of tweaking and trimming and we got it down to about the two hour and twenty minute length that you see right now. We had that plus the NRG book (of results) and we started showing the movie to studios. We just couldn't get them to move until Universal (said yes). There was nothing magical about what we did. It was just screening the movie and hoping it would speak for itself and speak to somebody. It obviously spoke to Ron (Meyer, Universal Studios president) and Stacey (Snider, Universal Pictures chairman) and (Universal Pictures vice chairman) Marc Shmuger and Adam (Fogelson, Universal Pictures marketing president) and Eddie (Egan, Universal Pictures marketing co-president) and the marketing (team) at Universal. It was pretty much a completed picture and the marketing guys were the guys who had to put their collective asses on the line and say, 'We can do this.' And they did."

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

The Peace Corps Library Date: February 7 2005 No: 438 The Peace Corps Library
Peace Corps Online is proud to announce that the Peace Corps Library is now available online. With over 30,000 index entries in over 500 categories, this is the largest collection of Peace Corps related reference material in the world. From Acting to Zucchini, you can use the Main Index to find hundreds of stories about RPCVs who have your same interests, who served in your Country of Service, or who serve in your state.

Make a call for the Peace Corps Date: February 19 2005 No: 453 Make a call for the Peace Corps
PCOL is a strong supporter of the NPCA's National Day of Action and encourages every RPCV to spend ten minutes on Tuesday, March 1 making a call to your Representatives and ask them to support President Bush's budget proposal of $345 Million to expand the Peace Corps. Take our Poll: Click here to take our poll. We'll send out a reminder and have more details early next week.
Peace Corps Calendar:Tempest in a Teapot? Date: February 17 2005 No: 445 Peace Corps Calendar:Tempest in a Teapot?
Bulgarian writer Ognyan Georgiev has written a story which has made the front page of the newspaper "Telegraf" criticizing the photo selection for his country in the 2005 "Peace Corps Calendar" published by RPCVs of Madison, Wisconsin. RPCV Betsy Sergeant Snow, who submitted the photograph for the calendar, has published her reply. Read the stories and leave your comments.

February 19, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: February 19 2005 No: 449 February 19, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
NPCA Board positions are open for nomination 17 Feb
Mike Tidwell on trial for climate action protest 17 Feb
Katie Dyer is co-owner of Cadeaux du Monde 16 Feb
Cyclone misses Tonga and Samoa PCVs 16 Feb
Phil Hardberger in debate for Mayor of San Antonio 16 Feb
Edmund Hull is Princeton Diplomat-In-Residence 16 Feb
Bruce Greenlee is longtime friend of Latino community 15 Feb
Mike Honda new vice chairman at DNC 15 Feb
Jospeh Opala documents slave crossing from Sierra Leone 14 Feb
Dear Dr. Brothers: Aren't PCVs Hippies? 14 Feb
Joseph Lanning founded the World Education Fund 14 Feb
Stanley Levine draws Marine and Peace Corps similarities 14 Feb
Speaking Out: JFK envisioned millions of RPCVs 13 Feb
Chris Aquino visits mother's homeland of Vietnam 12 Feb
Is PCOL blocking users from posting messages? 12 Feb
JFK Library opens Sargent Shriver Collection 1 Feb
RPCV responds to Bulgaria Calendar concerns 28 Jan

WWII participants became RPCVs Date: February 13 2005 No: 442 WWII participants became RPCVs
Read about two RPCVs who participated in World War II in very different ways long before there was a Peace Corps. Retired Rear Adm. Francis J. Thomas (RPCV Fiji), a decorated hero of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, died Friday, Jan. 21, 2005 at 100. Mary Smeltzer (RPCV Botswana), 89, followed her Japanese students into WWII internment camps. We honor both RPCVs for their service.
Bush's FY06 Budget for the Peace Corps Date: February 7 2005 No: 436 Bush's FY06 Budget for the Peace Corps
The White House is proposing $345 Million for the Peace Corps for FY06 - a $27.7 Million (8.7%) increase that would allow at least two new posts and maintain the existing number of volunteers at approximately 7,700. Bush's 2002 proposal to double the Peace Corps to 14,000 volunteers appears to have been forgotten. The proposed budget still needs to be approved by Congress.
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.
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."

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Story Source: Hollywood Reporter

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



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