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As distinctive and complicated a person as Nathaniel Ayers is, the filmmakers knew that the character would be an extremely demanding one to portray. After all, what actor would be able to travel the distance between Nathaniel's undeniable genius and his unalterable moments of mental imbalance?

Fortunately, almost as soon as the script was completed, Academy Award® winner Jamie Foxx expressed interest in the role. The actor was looking forward to using the same focus and commitment he had shown in his rich portrait of Ray Charles in "Ray,” and hit the ground running. Although he came to the production with the advantage of being a highly accomplished musician in his own right, he spent six intensive months learning advanced cello and violin techniques.

Notes Gary Foster: "From the outset, Jamie's appetite for this role was voracious and he grabbed it to the point where he moved away from his life during filming. We rented him an apartment to play the cello and think about the next day's scenes without interference from his normal existence. He really put himself inside this bubble and I cannot thank him enough for understanding what it was going to take to play this part.”

Adds Joe Wright: "Jamie has a heart the size of America and a very sensitive and gentle one at that. I believe he really loves Nathaniel, which was so important.”

Foxx immediately had an emotional reaction when he first read the script on a plane to London. "I guess altitude makes you even more emotional and I was getting misty on the plane,” he says. "It's so seldom you find a character captured with so many nuances and have everything work so well together on the page. I thought it was amazing. It's a story about how trying to understand someone else's world can take you a long way in your own, and it's really a beautiful love story.” Soon after taking on the role, Foxx met the real-life Nathaniel Ayers, which kicked everything into high gear. "It was just great to meet him, to get to know him up close and personal, to really be able to see his passion for music and his day-to- day life,” says the actor. "I wanted to get his speech down, I wanted to get all his subtleties down but, most of all, I wanted to capture his spirit.”

Foxx understood that accomplishing the latter was going to take him to some dark and uneasy places, as well as some magical ones. "It was tough,” he admits, "because I had to try to submerge myself into the mind of a schizophrenic in order to really understand what Nathaniel's journey is all about. You have to kind of slip off the deep end a bit, and the biggest challenge was letting go.”

Still, no matter how strange Nathaniel's reality could be at times, Foxx held on to a deep respect for his individuality and his sheer resourcefulness in navigating the twists and turns life throws at him. "The thing that makes Nathaniel like everyone else is that he is a person who is trying to make sense of the world. He has all these thoughts floating around, and he's trying to make sense of them,” says Foxx. "From the outside looking in, it looks like he's disturbed but actually I think he has figured out how to remain functional in his own way in our society. What seems abnormal to us is normal for Nathaniel. That's his mojo, that's how he gets around. And, even while he's in this homeless situation, he's toiling with these great dreams.”

The deeper he got into Nathaniel's way of seeing the world, the more Foxx realized just how strange his first encounter with Steve Lopez must have been. "I think he thought maybe this guy was a dream or something,” observes Foxx. "And he certainly didn't get why someone would want to write articles about him. They start off butting heads because Steve wants to save this guy's life and Nathaniel doesn't think his life needs<

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