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THE SOLOIST

Prologue
In April 2005, Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez kicked off a riveting series of features about Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, an astonishingly talented, yet utterly lost street musician Lopez had happened upon pushing his shopping cart and playing, with astonishing virtuosity, a two-stringed violin on the hard-knock streets of Skid Row. Very shortly thereafter, Lopez's stories became a phenomenon unto themselves.

As Lopez began to dig into Ayers' past as a Juilliard prodigy of great promise, and set out on his own challenging quest to bring dignity to Ayers' current life on the street, the articles continued to draw a vast readership. Rife with emotion and eye-opening in their raw reality, the stories of Lopez's unusual encounters with Ayers captured the city's imagination. Ayers himself, with his whimsical belief that Beethoven must be the leader of Los Angeles, his unwavering commitment to art and personal freedom in spite of his circumstances, and his steely knowledge of how to survive the dangers of the streets – was an irresistible true-life character.

However, his story seemed to be about so much more than just a man down on his luck. It was about the secret, yet transcendent dreams that exist even at the American margins; it was about crossing the gulf between the privileged and the outcast; and, perhaps most intriguingly, it was about the often perilous task of trying to change a friend's life, and how such a quest can lead paradoxically to exhilarating revelations about one's own.

Recalls Lopez: "Readers got very involved in the story and began rooting in some way for Mr. Ayers.” Letters, e-mails and packages flooded into Lopez's inbox, including violins and cellos, all to show their support for the homeless man whose meteoric ups and downs had become part of their daily lives.

It soon became clear that this story had leapt beyond the boundaries of Lopez's column. He began writing a book about his remarkable, ongoing bond with Ayers, The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music, which was published in early 2008. Well before that happened, there had already been avid interest in transferring Lopez's remarkable odyssey in befriending Ayers to the screen.

Although many producers expressed interest in the story, it was Russ Krasnoff and Gary Foster, partners in a leading production company Krasnoff/Foster Entertainment, who gained Lopez's trust.

The producing partners had been driven by a near instantaneous reaction to Lopez' columns. Explains Krasnoff: "I can't remember ever reading newspaper articles that so moved me like those Steve wrote about Nathaniel. Here was a story about two men, one who is troubled and who society says is broken, and another who is seen as very successful. Yet Steve discovers in Nathaniel a passion he will never know. I was intrigued because Steve was not just investigating a story about an unusual homeless man; he was looking deeper into the motivations and rationales for all our lives. He had gotten down to the very root of these characters, which for a film, is everything.”

Adds Foster: "We felt that in the right hands this could become a film about love, about inspiration, about the power of how people can help each other. That's what we wanted. We saw right away that this was a story of life-altering friendship. Nathaniel helped Steve discover more of his humanity and Steve gave Nathaniel the hope for more in his life than just sitting in a tunnel and playing a two-stringed violin. There's great drama, great emotion, and I was also inspired by the fact that it takes place in Los Angeles and explores the many aspects of the city, from the glimmering beauty of downtown to the stark grayness of skid row. One block separates them but it feels like they're worlds ap

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