Joe Wright, director of â€˜’Pride and Prejudice” and â€˜’Atonement”, returns from the past to helm the contemporary tale, â€˜’The Soloist”. Starring Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx, the film tells of a journalist, Steve Lopez (Downey Jr.) who discovers Nathaniel Anthony Ayers (Foxx), a former classical music prodigy, playing his violin on the streets of L.A. As Lopez endeavors to help the homeless man find his way back, a unique friendship is formed, one that transforms both their lives. CLINT MORRIS and ASHLEY HILLARD had the chance to talk to Wright about his beautiful new picture.
What drew you to the project?
Well, the script really. I liked it very much. I just wondered whether I had any right to make a film that was so much about America – in particular, Los Angeles, but I was intrigued enough to get myself on an airplane and come over to L.A and meet Steve Lopez, who took me on a walk down skid-row. I met some extraordinary people there – and they were the ones who made me want to make the film. I wanted to give these people a voice and express their lives and their experience. So that’s why I really made the film.
Did you film it all in L.A?
Yeah – well, we filmed a lot bit in Kingsland, Ohio, but mostly in LA, and a lot of it downtown, on Skid Row. 500 members of the Skid Row community came and worked us extras.
It’s great that they embraced you guys shooting there, and welcoming you into the community.
Very much so.
Was it easy to convince Jamie Foxx, who has done so many comedic roles, to tackle this far more dramatic role?
I think it’s far easier for a comedic actor to do a serious movie than it is a serious actor to do a comedic role. He’s a very brilliant man, and a very empathetic man. And he has a great imagination – and that’s what acting is all about. The most important thing for an actor to have is a great imagination.
Did he actually play the instruments in the movie?
He did lots of training on the cello – and got pretty good at it.
Did he enjoy playing the more classical stuff?
I think so, yeah. I think he discovered women like men who can play the cello.
Did you take a break between â€˜’Atonement” and this project?
I kind of kept working right through, and I’m happiest when I’m working. I did go away for a month but that wasn’t really a holiday – I went on a research trip to Vienna. It was an extraordinary place and an extraordinary education. This was for a new project.
How’s â€˜’Indian Summer” going? Is that your next project?
It is. It’s very exciting. I’ve been spending some time in India and right before coming to Los Angeles I was up at the Himalayas. That was quite the culture shock for me, I must say. I’m very lucky; it’s one of the perks of my jobs that I get to go to extraordinary places.
Considering the characters that the actors are playing in â€˜’The Soloist” are still alive, did you have take it into consideration more so than usual?
I did have to take it into consideration, yeah. I’d been very faithful to the fictitious characters of the novels that my two previous were based on, so I wondered whether I had to be as faithful to these real characters. Of course with Atonement and Pride and Prejudice, a storyteller had already shaped both stories, but this need a bit of shaping. But I think we stayed true to the real story – I didn’t meddle with it too much.
Did you meet with Nathaniel and Steve before filming?
Oh very much so. I spent a lot of time with Nathaniel and Steve during pre-production.
I’ve heard that you like to use the same team and you try and bring the same people over to work with you on each consecutive project.
Yeah, definitely. I’ve been able to work with some amazing people; so definitely, I always try and bring them onto each film. That goes for both behind and inside the camera.