James L. White, the screenwriter known for his work on the Oscar-winning Ray Charles biopic “Ray,” passed away Thursday at his home in Santa Monica, California, after battling pancreatic and liver cancer. He was 67.
White developed the story for “Ray” along with the film’s director, Taylor Hackford, in addition to writing the screenplay. The film was nominated for six Oscars, with Jamie Foxx winning for Best Actor and the film’s sound team winning for Best Sound Mixing.
“Jimmy White was a lovely man and a terrific writer,” Hackford told TheWrap in a statement. “His insights as a black man growing up in the south (Kentucky) were an invaluable asset in writing the script for ‘Ray.'”
In addition to his work on “Ray,” White was commissioned by studios and networks to write many musical-artist-based scripts, according to his attorney Matthew Saver. At the time of his passing, he was about to direct his own screenplay. He credited his good friend Sidney Poitier for giving him his first writing job.
According to his IMDB page, White had two projects in development: “Empress of the Blues,” which would trace the career of singer Bessie Smith, and an untitled Dinah Washington biopic.
At White’s request, there will be no services. According to his family, he joked “don’t throw me a funeral because I won’t be there.”
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Anita Ekberg, a Swedish actress best known for her role as a movie star in “La Dolce Vita,” died on Jan. 11 at age 83.