Ray (film)

Ray is a 2004 American biographical film focusing on 30 years in the life of rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles.[2] The independently produced film was written, produced, and directed by Taylor Hackford, and stars Jamie Foxx in the title role. It received critical acclaim and was a box office success. Foxx received an Oscar for Best Actor for his performance as well as the Golden Globe, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild, and Critics' Choice awards, becoming the second actor to win all five major lead actor awards for the same performance, and the only one to win the Golden Globe in the Musical or Comedy (rather than the Drama) category.

Ray poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTaylor Hackford
Produced by
Screenplay byJames L. White
Story by
  • Taylor Hackford
  • James L. White
Music byCraig Armstrong
CinematographyPaweł Edelman
Edited byPaul Hirsch
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • October 29, 2004 (2004-10-29)
Running time
152 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$40 million[1]
Box office$124.7 million[1]

Charles was set to attend an opening of the completed film, but died of liver disease in June 2004, months prior to the premiere.[3]


Raised on a sharecropping plantation in Northern Florida, Ray Charles Robinson went blind at the age of seven, shortly after witnessing his younger brother drown. Inspired by a fiercely independent mother who insisted he make his own way in the world, Charles found his calling and his gift behind a piano keyboard. Touring across the chitlin circuit, the soulful singer gained a reputation before exploding onto the worldwide stage when he pioneered the incorporation of rhythm and blues, rock and roll, gospel, country, jazz and orchestral influences into his inimitable style.



The film's production was entirely financed by Philip Anschutz, through his Bristol Bay Productions company. Taylor Hackford said in a DVD bonus feature that it took 15 years to make the film; or more specifically, as he later clarified in the liner notes of the soundtrack album, this is how long it took him to secure the financing. It was made on a budget of $40 million.

Charles was given a Braille copy of the film's original script; he objected only to a scene showing him taking up piano grudgingly, and a scene implying that Charles had shown mistress and lead "Raelette" Margie Hendricks how to shoot heroin.[3]

Ray debuted at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival.



Box officeEdit

Ray was released in theaters on October 29, 2004. The film went on to become a box-office hit, earning $75 million in the U.S. with an additional $50 million internationally, bringing its worldwide gross to $125 million.[1]

Critical reactionEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 80% based on 204 reviews, with an average rating of 7.28/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "An engrossing and energetic portrait of a great musician's achievements and foibles, Ray is anchored by Jamie Foxx's stunning performance as Ray Charles."[4] CinemaScore reported that audiences gave the film a rare "A+" grade.[5]

According to music critic Robert Christgau, "Foxx does the impossible—radiates something approaching the charisma of the artist he's portraying... that's the only time an actor has ever brought a pop icon fully to life on-screen."[6]


Differences from noted eventsEdit

The film's credits state that Ray is based on true events, but includes some characters, names, locations, and events which have been changed and others which have been "fictionalized for dramatization purposes." Examples of the fictionalized scenes include:

  • The film's portrayal of Charles' brother George's death in 1935 shows him drowning in a metal tub after Ray doesn't attempt to rescue him because he assumes he is just playing; Ray's mother then discovers George drowning when calling the boys in for dinner. Though George did drown in a metal tub, Ray did try to pull him out, but was unable to do so due to George's large body weight;[7] Ray then ran inside to tell his mother what happened.[7]
  • Throughout the film, it is suggested that Ray's depression and heroin addiction were fueled by nervous breakdowns he had over the deaths of both George and his mother, as well as his blindness. In reality, the death of his mother did give him a nervous breakdown and was thought to be a leading cause of his depression,[8] but the death of George and his blindness did not lead to nervous breakdowns.[8]
  • It is true that Charles kicked his heroin addiction after undergoing treatment in a psychiatric hospital during 1965, as stated towards the end of the film, but it is not mentioned that he would often use gin and marijuana as substitutes for heroin throughout much of the remaining years of his life.[8][9]
  • In the scene in which "What'd I Say" is being played, Charles is depicted as playing a Fender Rhodes electric piano, but in reality, he used a Wurlitzer electric piano on the original recording and began using it on tour in 1956, because he didn't trust the tuning and quality of the pianos provided to him at every venue.[10]
  • In the film, when his backing singer and mistress Margie Hendricks informs Ray she is pregnant with his child, Ray suggests she should have an abortion, out of loyalty to Della; Margie decides to keep the baby and soon leaves Ray to pursue a separate singing career after he refuses to abandon his family, move in with her and welcome the baby into his life. In reality, Hendricks did conceive a child with Charles and abandoned him after he refused to leave Della, but Charles never asked her to have an abortion, and welcomed any child he conceived, whether from Della or any mistress, into his personal life.[9]
  • In the scene in which Charles is about to enter a segregated music hall in Augusta, Georgia, in 1962, a group of civil rights activists protesting just outside the hall successfully persuade him not to perform; Charles then declares that he will no longer perform in segregated public facilities and in response, the Georgia state legislature passes a resolution banning Charles from ever performing again in the state. In reality, a group of civil rights activists did successfully persuade Charles to reject this invitation, but the advice came in the form of a telegram rather than a street protest;[9] Charles also did make up for the gig later, and was never banned from performing in Georgia and still accepted invitations to perform at segregated public facilities.[9]
  • In the film, Margie Hendricks dies in 1964-5. In reality, she died in 1973 of a heroin overdose.
  • During the final scene in the film, when Charles' version of "Georgia on My Mind" becomes Georgia's state song, Charles is congratulated by his wife Della, and a resolution is also passed to lift the lifetime ban he had received in 1962 after he declared he would no longer perform at segregated public facilities. In reality, by the time "Georgia on My Mind" became Georgia's state song in 1979, Charles and Della had already divorced, so she wasn't present when Charles performed at the Georgia State Legislature;[9] and since he had never been banned from performing in Georgia in the first place, no such resolution was ever passed.[9]


  1. ^ a b c "Ray (2004)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved March 15, 2014.
  2. ^ Director Taylor Hackford noted this focus on the years 1935–1965 in his DVD commentary for the film; the only exception to this focus is the film's final scene featuring Julian Bond and set in the Georgia State Capitol in 1979, a scene Hackford included at Charles' specific request.
  3. ^ a b "Music legend Ray Charles dies at 73". Associated Press. October 10, 2004. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  4. ^ Ray (2004), retrieved 2020-03-02
  5. ^ "Why CinemaScore Matters for Box Office". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2020-03-02.
  6. ^ Christgau, Robert (July 5, 2005). "All This Useless Beauty". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Charles, Ray (1930–2004) – HistoryLink.org". historylink.org.
  8. ^ a b c Ritz, David (22 October 2004). "It's a Shame About Ray" – via Slate.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "History in the Movies". stfrancis.edu.
  10. ^ Evans, p. 109.

External linksEdit