James L. White, who wrote the original screenplay to the 2004 Ray Charles biopic “Ray,” starring Jaime Foxx, died early Thursday morning from complications resulting from pancreatic and liver cancer at his home in Santa Monica, his attorney, Matthew L. Saver, confirmed to Variety. He was 67.
White had two projects in motion: the untitled Dinah Washington biopic, which is in pre-production, and Bessie Smith biopic “Empress of the Blues”; neither has a director attached.
A statement from attorney Saver read in part: White “worked steadily and was commissioned by studios and networks to write many musical-artist-based scripts. At the time of his passing he was about to direct his own screenplay.”
Taylor Hackford’s “Ray” won Oscars for Foxx’s leading performance and for sound mixing and was also nominated for best picture, director, film editing and costume design.
Responding to news of White’s passing, Hackford said: “Jimmy White was a lovely man and a terrific writer. His insights as a black man growing up in the South (Kentucky) were an invaluable asset in writing the script for ‘Ray.'”
White credited his good friend Sidney Poitier with giving him his first writing job, his attorney told Variety.
Survivors include White’s wife Elizabeth; two daughters; and a son.
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.”
Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society.