Foxx, Downey soften up in Wright’s ‘The Soloist’

By Cielestia Calbay

Everybody is full of surprises.That can be said in the upcoming
film, “The Soloist,” which tells the true story of a
Julliard-trained homeless man and a Los Angeles Times journalist
who befriends him.Directed by Golden Globe-nominated Joe Wright,
“The Soloist” is a forthcoming, inspirational American drama that
features Jamie Foxx as Nathaniel Ayers, a musician who becomes
schizophrenic and homeless.Ayers developed schizophrenia during his
second year at Juilliard School, after which he becomes homeless in
the streets of downtown Los Angeles, playing the violin and the
cello.Robert Downey Jr. stars as Steve Lopez, a Los Angeles Times
reporter who discovers Ayers and writes about the musical prodigy
in the newspaper through his columns.It was through Lopez’s columns
that the city’s mayor and administrators did a major re-think about
the city’s attitude toward the homeless. .Having directed periodic
films such as the critically acclaimed “Atonement” and “Pride and
Prejudice,” Joe Wright took a different direction with “The
Soloist,” as it was his first American film.In the film, Wright
made it significant to highlight the friendship of the homeless man
and journalist.”I think that was the most emotional part of the
story because you want to give the film an emotional core, as it
carries the audience through,” said Wright. “Onto that, you can
surround it with other themes ” homelessness, mental illness [and]
the demise of print journalism.”Though he considers “The Soloist” a
periodic film, as it was set in the year 2005, Wright says many of
the elements in the film can be related to present-day themes.”It
may not seem much, but it’s quite important that it was set to that
specific year because it was the year of hurricane Katrina, of the
London bombings and the year that Mayor [Antonio] Villaraigosa
began his safer city initiative, which is basically a cleansing of
the homeless communities in downtown,” said Wright. “It was
actually different to create a period so close to the present day
because the differences were more subtle.”Additionally, Wright says
he was intrigued by the darker side of glamorous Los Angeles ” the
Skid Row district in Downtown where hundreds of homeless people and
families must find shelter each night; the place where Steve Lopez
found his muse.Wright used volunteers from homeless communities in
Los Angeles throughout the film.He attributes this as being one of
his favorite aspects of working on the film.”I had no right to
speak for them or depict their lives without their involvement,”
said Wright. “I felt that they could add a different presence, and
that they would benefit from the film in a direct way. Any
awareness that could be raised on the issue from the film would be
great.””The Soloist” includes moments of power and imagination,
especially through the scenes involving the homeless, as Wright
says it changed his perspective on that population and the issues
surrounding them.”Two-thirds of the people of the homeless
community have been diagnosed with a mental illness, which is quite
a shocking statistic when I discovered it, so my reaction with the
community is very tied up with that.”Wright says one of the biggest
challenges about working on the film was that it was being produced
simultaneously with the book.He adds that it was difficult to
create the authenticity of the Skid Row setting.”I’ve seen too many
films in which you get too many dreadlocked people, and it’s
supposed to be Skid Row,” said Wright. “It’s a very difficult
environment to capture.” Though the film’s tagline reads, “Life
has a mind of its own,” Wright claims he had no involvement in the
creation of it, as that would involve having a say in his films.”I
have absolutely no idea what it means,” said Wright. “I’m very
weary of my films having a direct message because if they were to
have one, then that would mean that I am suggesting that I have
something to say. I have absolutely nothing to say, but I do have a
lot to learn. In this film, I learn a lot about the brain, the mind
and music.”Delayed from an original Fall 2008 release, “The
Soloist” hits theatres nationwide this Friday, April 24.Reach
Cielestia Calbay at

Foxx, Downey soften up in Wright

Foxx, Downey soften up in Wright’s “The Soloist”

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