The Man Behind 'Ray'? Nascent 'Examiner' Mogul Philip Anschutz

By: Joe Strupp The successful biopic ?Ray,? which chronicles the life of Ray Charles, has garnered praise for star Jamie Foxx and director Taylor Hackford. Just as important -- but likely much less well-known -- is the key money man behind the flick: Denver billionaire and ambitious newspaper owner Philip Anschutz.

Anschutz, who entered the newspaper world with last year?s purchase of the San Francisco Examiner and now plans to launch a Washington, D.C., Examiner next month, came up with the estimated $40 million for the film several years ago. Hackford, who had unsuccessfully sought funding for the movie for more than a decade, initially convinced Anschutz, who also owns the Los Angeles Kings hockey team, to put in half of the capital needed.

When several studios passed on the film -- despite Anschutz investment and Foxx?s agreement to star -- Anschutz agreed to pay for it all. Perhaps that's why Foxx prominently saluted him on Sunday night in accepting his Golden Globe for best actor in a musical or comedy.

"Phil really loved Ray Charles," Hackford told the Los Angeles Times. "He was touched by his music. He's a moral conservative and I'm an old-fashioned liberal, but when it came to Ray and what he meant to us, we felt exactly the same way."

But while he was ready to finance the project, Anschutz was not ready to allow an R rating, according to Jim Monaghan, an Anschutz spokesman. He told E&P that Hackford and Anschutz battled constantly over some of the more adult elements of the film, with Hackford either quitting or being fired on several occasions.

?It was one of those creative-tension things,? Monaghan said about the project, which ended up with a PG-13 label. ?Phil is never going to produce an R-rated movie so there was a real arm-wrestling match to keep it PG-13. He wants to make films that are family suitable.?

Anschutz, who does not do interviews, had previously invested in less-successful films such as last year?s ?Around the World in 80 Days? remake and ?Holes,? a 2003 disappointment. Both were made under his Walden Media production company, while Ray came out of his Bristol Bay productions.

Monaghan said Anschutz had long been a fan of Ray Charles and was glad to be involved with the film. ?The story really gripped him and at one point he went to the set to meet some of the people and was really taken in a positive fashion,? Monaghan said. ?I think he is pleased.?

Still, don?t expect to see Anschutz at the Academy Awards, says Monaghan. ?He didn?t go to the Golden Globes; he usually shies away from that kind of thing. That isn?t his style.?


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