Newspaper columnist takes stage in "The Soloist"

Sat Apr 25, 2009 9:16am EDT
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Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Feature film "The Soloist" opened Friday with a story of music, schizophrenia and homelessness that newspaper columnist Steve Lopez witnessed firsthand after seeing virtuoso Nathaniel Ayers play a two string violin on the street.

Lopez's series of columns for the Los Angeles Times about Ayers and his 2008 book "The Soloist" became the basis for the movie of the same name, with Robert Downey Jr. playing reporter Lopez and Jamie Foxx as the homeless musician.

The film follows the friendship between Lopez and Ayers that leads to the down-and-out musician experiencing a classical music concert at L.A.'s famed Disney Hall, and starts with a chance meeting on the street.

Lopez turned Ayers into his muse, after finding him playing violin at a downtown L.A. city square and trying to remember a Tchaikovsky piece amid the urban chaos surrounding him.

Inspired by Ayers' love of music, Lopez rediscovered his own passion for writing.

"I began to think of him as a lucky guy," Lopez told Reuters. "Because so few people find their purpose in life, find what it's all about and live their life with a purpose and passion like he does."

Lopez, who met Ayers in 2005, collected donated instruments for him in the hope that the musician could be convinced to move off the streets, and Lopez worked with a Skid Row organization to get Ayers into an apartment.

Now, Ayers lives off the street and works as a janitor at a Skid Row nonprofit organization in the morning, before picking up one of his 15 instruments (including cello, viola, flute and trumpet) and playing it in the afternoon.   Continued...

<p>Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, who is portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr. in the film "The Soloist", arrives for the premiere of the movie in Los Angeles, California April 20, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok</p>