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When it came to choosing a director for "The Soloist,” the filmmakers followed a suggestion from DreamWorks' head Stacey Snider about a young, rapidly rising British director who had just garnered international acclaim with his debut film, "Pride & Prejudice,” and had recently completed an epic adaptation of Ian McEwan's beloved novel Atonement. "Atonement” would go on to win a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for Best Picture of the Year, as well as an Academy Award® nomination for Best Picture, and make Wright one of today's most sought-after directors.

Gary Foster recalls, "When I saw ‘Atonement,' I got very excited because I could see that Joe Wright was a man who believes in complex cinema, who knows that dialogue and characters matter. After we sent him the script, Joe called me and said, ‘I've read many scripts from Hollywood and this is the first one that moved me to consider making my first film in America.' He saw this story as a way of bringing Hollywood and British realism together, which we were very excited about.”

Although Wright had never made a film in the U.S. before, he felt this was a film that might benefit from his distinctly outsider's point of view. "Both Steve and Nathaniel are sort of outside observers of the world they live in, and therefore it felt more appropriate for me as an outsider to come in and tell this story,” he comments. "What interested me is that Steve and Nathaniel have kind of cut themselves off from society and also from their emotional lives. Steve is, in a way, as much of a ‘soloist' as Nathaniel. And yet, they each learn something about love by trying to become friends.”

The chance to present a fresh cinematic view of Los Angeles also intrigued the director, who sees the film as setting up a mirror image to the glitzy city, which encompasses great beauty and streets of squalor all within blocks of each other. "I think this story gets to the tenacity of humanity that is expressed in Los Angeles daily life,” he says. "There's an extraordinary survival instinct in L.A. that is both literal and in terms of the fantasies people have about coming here to fulfill dreams. There's something quite powerful and, at times, tragic in that, which comes out in ‘The Soloist.'”

Before signing on, Wright flew to Los Angeles to talk further about the script with the producers and used the opportunity to make his own personal forays alone into Skid Row. This had a profound effect on him and changed the direction of the film, firing up Wright with a desire to bring the rich humanity of this invisible part of the city's population out into the open.

Recalls Russ Krasnoff: "Joe went on a bit of his own emotional journey in exploring Skid Row to determine if he could commit to immersing himself in this film. Then, he thrilled us all by saying, ‘I'm in, but on the condition that I be able to make the film in and with the community in which the story is being told.'” Adds executive producer Patricia Whitcher: "He really wanted to do something unique that hadn't been attempted before.”

Wright says it was his trip to visit Skid Row and the Lamp Community – the advocacy group that offers nearly 200 private apartments for the homeless, including the one where Ayers currently lives, that made everything clear. "The people I met on Skid Row are the reason I'm making this film,” he states. "They are the kindest, gentlest, funniest and most honest people I've ever met. If you let them, they will change your life. I hoped involving them would bring an authenticity to the film, but also would do something for them in return. It would be work, they'd learn skills and it would be something to be proud of. These people are the most disenfranchised people in American society and don't generally have a voice. I wanted our film to be able to giv

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