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Skid Row the movie

July 10 2009
Rough sleeping cellist Nathaniel Ayers gets the Hollywood treatment The story of a rough sleeping virtuoso cellist called Nathaniel Ayers and the friendship that develops with journalist Steve Lopez has been given the Hollywood treatment. But the film, The Soloist, which stars Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx, features "hundreds of homeless background actors", and appears to have loftier aspirations than just making money. Partner groups such as Participant Media and have led campaigns such as 'Teens for Jeans', in which youngsters were encouraged to donate their jeans for teenage rough sleepers, and 'Feed the Need', which collected 1.2m lbs of food, as part of the film's "social action". Meanwhile, the people behind the film have dedicated much of their press time to talking about working with the 450 homeless extras, as well as the issues that the film delves into. The press pack itself contained facts and figures about the extent of homelessness in LA County, where it is estimated there are more than 73,000 homeless people. Extras casting coordinator Maryellen Aviano said: "The downtown community completely embraced the movie because [director] Joe Wright spent several months working with them and invited them to share their experiences. The film gave them an opportunity to step up and show how resourceful they can be as a community." Wright described the experience as "without exaggeration, kind of life-changing". He added: "It taught me a lot of humility and to never underestimate anyone." Downey said it was "quite an immersion" and "a fantastic leap of faith", while Foxx applauded Wright for having "[taken] a risk and he made it work". Not due out in the UK until September, it has received mediocre reviews from US critics so far.