Feature Film on Ray Charles Opens Oct.29

When Ray Charles passed away June 10, he left more than his music behind in memory of his talent and influence. The Universal Pictures movie “Ray” (formerly titled “Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Story”) will also serve as testament to Charles’ legacy. Jamie Foxx portrays Charles in a performance already garnering Oscar buzz. “Ray” opens Oct. 29 in U.S. theaters.

The film’s music supervisor and music editor, Curt Sobel, has given Billboard an exclusive insider’s story about the project. “Ray Charles OK’ed the script, and he was 100% supportive of what we were doing in telling his life story,” he says.

Although Foxx did much of his own singing, Charles’ vocals are a huge part of the movie. Sobel worked with the singer to re-record many of his classic songs. “If there were [original recordings] that were unavailable, or if they didn’t match the script, we had Ray come in and do the songs,” says Sobel. “Jamie only sang on the set, not in the studio. We felt that many of the older songs needed to have Ray’s vocals.” Rhino/Atlantic/Warner Strategic Marketing will release the soundtrack Aug. 24.

Taylor Hackford directed “Ray,” which covers Charles’ life from 1935 to 1979. James L. White and Hackford wrote the screenplay. “The way the script was written, they told Ray’s life through the songs,” Sobel says. “You’ll hear a song like ‘Hit the Road Jack’ in a scene when Ray has a fight with his mistress Margie.”

As for Foxx’s portrayal of Charles, Sobel says, “Every scene Jamie is in, he nails the Ray Charles persona and soul. It’s a magnificent performance.”

Making the film was a labor of love, Sobel adds. The picture was an independent production until Universal signed on in March for distribution, long after filming wrapped last year. Prior to that, the movie had been in development for 16 years. “We had budgetary constraints,” Sobel says. “Everyone took a paycheck cut for this picture.”

Sobel says his favorite memories of working on the film include his initial meetings with Charles. “I was there the first time Jamie met Ray,” he recalls. “Jamie was tongue-tied at first, but Ray was so warm and giving of himself. They ended up sitting at pianos side by side and playing music and telling stories. I happened to bring a digital video camera with me to record those meetings. We made a ‘making of’ documentary, which will probably end up on the ‘Ray’ DVD. I deeply regret Ray’s passing; it’s an incredible loss to the world.”

Source billboard.com.

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