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THE SOLOIST

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Surrounding Foxx and Downey in "The Soloist” is an ensemble of highly accomplished actors in crucial supporting roles. They include Catherine Keener, a two-time Supporting Actress Oscar® nominee for "Capote” and "Being John Malkovich,” in the role of Mary Weston who, in the film, is Steve Lopez's editor and ex-wife. (Utilizing some dramatic license, the character of Mary is actually a composite of several real-life figures in Lopez's life. Lopez is happily married to his wife, Alison, who is not his editor at the Los Angeles Times.)

Keener had already expressed interest in working on Joe Wright's next film without knowing what it might be but was thrilled when she found out it would be the story of Nathaniel Ayers. "I already knew of the story because I had followed it when Steve Lopez was writing about it, so it was already kind of etched in my being,” she explains. She also found herself intrigued by the fictional Mary's role in Lopez's life. "She's the one who kind of calls him on his B.S.,” she laughs. "Their relationship is close, yet contentious. I think they were quite young and idealistic when they met and now, she's the person who can challenge him to be who he used to believe he could be.”

On the set, Keener and Downey found a unique rapport that had traces of the classic Hepburn-Tracy repartee, filled at once with conflict and underlying affection. "Robert is so lovable, and so good at what he does, he makes it easy,” says Keener. "But when the character antagonized me, I reacted. We really had an excellent time together.”

Also joining the supporting cast was Stephen Root, last seen in the Oscar®- winning "No Country for Old Men,” as Curt Reynolds, Lopez's fellow reporter who becomes the victim of the newspaper world's economic woes. "The character I play is kind of an amalgamation of a couple of Los Angeles Times reporters,” Root says. "He's one of those guys that everyone in the office tolerates because he's been around for a long time. But he's not very confident that his job is secure, and he's always looking over his shoulder. And, in this case, it turns out he's right.”

LisaGay Hamilton, best known for her role on ABC's "The Practice,” plays Jennifer Ayers-Moore, Nathaniel's estranged sister, who isn't even certain her brother is still alive until Lopez's columns unexpectedly bring them back together. "I loved the honesty of the script and the very positive attempt to tell the story of someone who is quite brilliant but, unfortunately, suffers from the debilitating disease of schizophrenia,” Hamilton says. "That's a topic that we don't often see depicted truthfully in movies.”

Hamilton was able to spend some time with the real Jennifer Ayers-Moore, which added to her enthusiasm for the role. "The family couldn't have been more supportive,” she says. "I saw up-close how losing touch with Nathaniel for so long was extremely difficult for Jennifer. I think their reunion was very important for both of them. Jennifer could finally face the feelings of responsibility she felt for her brother and Nathaniel regained the opportunity to have a vital family connection.” Says Jamie Foxx of her performance: "LisaGay brought so much integrity to the part. I was captivated by her presence and at how much she is able both to take in and give out.”

Tom Hollander, who previously worked with Wright on "Pride & Prejudice,” portrays Los Angeles Philharmonic's cellist Graham Claydon, a fictional character in the film, whose creation was inspired by several real-life musicians. "Graham is a cellist who works with Nathaniel and encourages him to give a recital that goes wrong,” Hollander explains. "He's one of the people who tries to make Nathaniel better without any success. He's also a very committed Christian, so he hopes that, through him, God can sav

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