Soloist: True Story Resonates
Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr, Catherine Keener, Halle Berry and yours truly - what do all of these stars have in common? All were on the Paramount Studios historic lot April 20 for the red carpet premiere of The Soloist.
Foxx stars as the real-life Nathaniel Ayers, a child prodigy who finds himself going from Julliard to homeless living in Los Angeles. Robert Downey Jr co-stars as Steve Lopez, the Los Angeles Times columnist (and book author) who followed Ayers around for his immensely popular columns.
Our first thoughts from the red carpet: It is always nice to make an impression: Downey remembered our Oscar interview! Read it here!
Catherine Keener plays Downey's ex-wife and boss. Kenner looked magnificent on the red carpet, as did Halle Berry who only offered a quick â€˜Hi.' When asked if she needed a date, she said "Sure!"
With security fast approaching -- no they weren't! Seriously, this was a night to celebrate the arts as only The Soloist can amongst today's film fare.
Joe Wright: Director
Joe Wright is coming off a few Keira Knightley hit films and lands in the director's chair for The Soloist as a man drawn by the astounding true story of Nathaniel Ayers. "I met some extraordinary people," Wright says of how he came to helm the project. "I was sent the script and I was intrigued by Steve and Nathaniel's story -- Intrigued enough to take a flight to LA. I met Steve and Nathaniel and they were extraordinary. The Steve took me downtown and there I met some equally extraordinary people. There are so many stories down there that I felt I wanted to make a film with their participation."Wright was nominated for a Golden Globe for his direction of Atonement, and with two Knightley films under his belt, he was ready to set camera on two Hollywood legends-in-the-making."I've always wanted to work with Robert Downey. He's the best actor in the world and Jamie Foxx is another best actor in the world. Who do you want to work with? Dream casting? Those two, it's easy," Wright says.What's next for the visionary director? "I'm doing a film called Indian Summer which is about the partitioning of India. It begins shooting in January."
Susannah Grant: Screenwriter
As a screenwriter working on a true story, for Grant the journey was extra perilous. "It's different, and it's a privilege," she says. "You have to be respectful. You're portraying lives. You have to be brutally honest as well. Everybody going into the deal has to know that every good movie doesn't come from sugar coating. It comes from being really honest about the lives you're portraying."Lopez's book was being writen as Grant wrote the screenplay — a unique challenge, but not a difficult one. "It all happened very fast," Grant says.Grant visited the most devasted of Los Angeles' neighborhoods to capture the essence of Ayers' life on Skid Row.
"You can't write a movie about Skid Row without going to skid row. I got to tell you it was a privilege to be there too. To spend time with those people, it really opened my eyes to what's going on in that part of the city. And the openness that people showed me there, their lives and the struggles, was really beautiful. Most of the people who are in the movie playing residents of that community, are played residents of that community," Grant proudly says. "It was a lot of improvisation. There was a lot of British realism that Joe brought."
Does Grant have any advice for the female screenwriters out there?"Forget your gender. It's irrelevant, just do your work."
Russ Krasnoff, Producer
"He wanted to come," Krasnoff says of Nathaniel and all the premiere hoopla. "He's seen the movie once already. He was proud. He enjoyed his story, but he mostly watched it with his eyes closed and listened to it."Of all the true stories that are out there, Krasnoff says it is the meeting of two minds that made Nathaniel's tale a must-tell."I think it was about the combination of not only Nathaniel's story, but also Steve's story. How it changed his life and someone who didn't know that he needed change in his life and how the friendship with this man sort of represented all of us. We thought it would resonate with audiences," Krasnoff says.Getting Downey and Foxx left the producer feeling blessed.
"What could be better than that?" he asks and laughs. We cannot think of anyone else who could play these roles. "You know what, they are both just perfect in it and we are very lucky to have them. They absolutely bring to life of Nathaniel and Steve."
Nathaniel's family was in attendance and their pride was brighter than any Hollywood spotlight crossing the sky. A foundation led by the family is using the arts to help people with disabilities. "They are doing him a great honor," Krasnoff adds.
Foxx's cello maestro
Ben Hong is a member of the highly-regarded Los Angeles Philharmonic. He met Ayers through the symphony and was delighted when producers asked him to serve as Foxx's technical advisor for the cello."I knew Nathaniel in 2005 when Steve and Nathaniel came to Disney Hall. So I think that's one of the reasons they hired me because I knew Nathaniel's playing. That was really exciting to work with Jamie because it's such a great honor," Hong said.Musicians are asked to train actors all the time, but working in Foxx, Hong had a Grammy-award winner. "It's much easier. Not only that, but I wish all my students were that intense with their instrument," Hong says. "It was a big project for me. It was very intense and very rewarding."Would Hong go Hollywood again? "If Brad Pitt wants to learn to play the cello, sure," Hong says and laughs. "It's not necessarily the most popular of instruments."
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