HOLLYWOOD — When the biopic Ray hits theaters next month, audiences may swear they’re seeing Ray Charles play himself onscreen.
Comedian-turned-actor Jamie Foxx absolutely nails his performance as Charles, perfectly capturing the musical legend’s unique speaking cadence and physical mannerisms. Texas native Foxx put his childhood piano skills to work on film, and he lip synchs so well to Charles’ voice that audiences forget he’s not actually singing.
Ray, directed by Taylor Hackford, picks up Charles’ story in 1948, when he travels from Florida to Seattle to play the city’s jazz clubs. It follows the singer’s rise through the ’50s and ’60s, and it gives a stark look into his problems with heroin addiction and womanizing. Through flashbacks we also learn about Charles’ childhood in Georgia, where he tragically lost both his younger brother and his mother at a young age.
Music is used with great dramatic effect to underscore pivotal points in Charles’ life and career. Among the hits featured are “Mess Around,” “I’ve Got a Woman,” “(Night Time Is) The Right Time,” “What’d I Say,” “Hit the Road Jack” and “Georgia on My Mind.” The filmmakers also feature Charles’ foray into country music with his 1962 landmark album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. Several of the country standards he covered — including “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “You Don’t Know Me” — are included on the 17-cut soundtrack CD that will be released on Oct. 19.
Foxx’s performance is in a league with Sissy Spacek, who basically became Loretta Lynn in the 1980 film Coal Miner’s Daughter. Spacek won an Academy Award for that role, and Foxx is already being talked up as an Oscar contender for his work in Ray.
In August at the Los Angeles premiere for his current film, Collateral, Foxx told CMT News that Charles gave him the thumbs up before his death in June.
“Ray was alive and got a chance to view the movie before passed on,” Foxx said. “He signed off on it and said, ’The kid’s got it.'”
Ray opens at theaters on Oct. 29.