The Soloist

April 24th, 2009


The Soloist

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Still of Jamie Foxx in The SoloistStill of Jamie Foxx in The SoloistHalle Berry at event of The SoloistStill of Jamie Foxx in The SoloistStill of Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx in The SoloistStill of Jamie Foxx in The Soloist

A Los Angeles journalist befriends a homeless Juilliard-trained musician, while looking for a new article for the paper.

Release Year: 2009

Rating: 6.7/10 (22,550 voted)

Critic's Score: 61/100

Director: Joe Wright

Stars: Jamie Foxx, Robert Downey Jr., Catherine Keener

In 2005, the only thing hurting Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez more than his face from a recent bike accident was his pressing need for story ideas. That is when he discovers Nathaniel Ayers, a mentally ill, homeless street musician who possesses extraordinary talent, even through his half-broken instruments. Inspired by his story, Lopez writes an acclaimed series of articles about Ayers and attempts to do more to help both him and the rest of the underclass of LA have a better life. However, Lopez's good intentions run headlong in the hard realities of the strength of Ayers' personal demons and the larger social injustices facing the homeless. Regardless, Lopez and Ayers must find a way to conquer their deepest anxieties and frustrations to hope for a brighter future for both of them.

Writers: Susannah Grant, Steve Lopez

Jamie Foxx - Nathaniel Ayers
Robert Downey Jr. - Steve Lopez
Catherine Keener - Mary Weston
Tom Hollander - Graham Claydon
Lisa Gay Hamilton - Jennifer Ayers (as Lisagay Hamilton)
Nelsan Ellis - David Carter
Rachael Harris - Leslie Bloom
Stephen Root - Curt Reynolds
Lorraine Toussaint - Flo Ayers
Justin Martin - Young Nathaniel
Kokayi Ampah - Bernie Carpenter
Patrick Tatten - Paul Jr.
Susane Lee - Marisa (as Susane E. Lee)
Marcos De Silvas - Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
Ilia Volok - Harry Barnoff

Taglines: Life has a mind of its own


Official Website: DreamWorks [United States] | Official site [Spain] |

Release Date: 24 April 2009

Filming Locations: Biltmore Hotel - 506 S. Grand Avenue, Downtown, Los Angeles, California, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $60,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $9,716,458 (USA) (26 April 2009) (2024 Screens)

Gross: $31,670,931 (USA) (5 July 2009)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

In the scene that Nathaniel Ayers and Steve Lopez attend a rehearsal concert, all the seats are covered with canvas. This was not cinematic imagery; this is actually done in some concert halls during rehearsals to reflect a more accurate sound as if the seats were being occupied.

Continuity: When Lopez pulls over in the tunnel after spotting Ayers, his car blocks the right lane. In subsequent shots, cars are seen in the background cruising through that very same lane, one even merges into it, even though Lopez's car is blocking it just a few yards ahead.

Steve Lopez: 'Points West' by Steve Lopez. A year ago, I met a man who was down on his luck and thought I might be able to help him. I don't know that I have. Yes, my friend Mr. Ayers now sleeps inside. He has a key. He has a bed. But his mental state, and his well-being...

User Review

Uplifting: Finding a Golden Needle in the Haystack of Urban Blight

Rating: 10/10

First off, I should say that I am personally familiar with this story, having worked in downtown L.A. for the last 19 years and seeing Mr Ayers and his cello many a time around 3rd and Hill Sts. I've also read Lopez's columns in the Times for years and followed this one with interest and satisfaction. Making a film about a tale like this restores my belief in Hollywood beyond the mindless bunk it churns out year after year.

Downey Jr and Foxx play a newspaper columnist and homeless man who come together in a most unusual way. Downey is a newspaper columnist looking for something original and interesting to write about. He finds it when he sees Foxx beautifully playing battered stringed instruments along 3rd street in downtown L.A. Foxx has been there for years but on this day grabs the eye of the columnist because the columnist himself is experiencing hardship and doubt related to his own position. He begins to write about this talented but troubled man who fills the stinky air around him with harmony. They become friends but keep in mind this is not fiction. The friendship hits many bumps that continue to this day. Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx's character) may be a brilliant, educated musician, but he suffers from bouts of schizophrenia that manifest at any time. Downey's character accepts this as it adds more intrigue to his columns. Then he accepts it on a personal level. Their friendship ultimately becomes real and meaningful. You sense that Downey's character needs the friendship even more than Foxx's homeless man does. In the end, Downey's Lopez can see the positive effect his work has brought to the plight of the homeless, yet he wonders personally how much better he has made Nathaniel...? His reflections make us think also.

Downey Jr and Foxx play their characters to near perfection and the film masterfully takes its time in developing the relationship between the two. Great to see director Joe Wright telling a contemporary tale just as effectively as he has in previous works. The film makes us wonder how many other Nathaniel Ayers are lurking out there on the streets? Life being what it is, of course we will never know. The beauty of the film is that is shows what can happen when just one Nathaniel Ayers is found after being lost for so many years. There's no sugarcoating; Ayers doesn't magically get better and rejoin mainstream society. Instead, the mainstream accepts him for what he is and what he offers and begins integrating him as best it can. This film will certainly pop up at award time next year.


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