James L. White, who penned the script for the Ray Charles biopic Ray that won Jamie Foxx the Best Actor Oscar in 2004, died Thursday at his home in Santa Monica. He was 67. His attorney, Matthew H. Saver, told Deadline that White died of complications from pancreatic cancer.
Ray landed six Oscar nominations that year, winning for Foxx’s turn as well as sound mixing. Taylor Hackford was nominated for Best Director (he and White shared the story-by credit) and the movie was up for Best Picture (it lost to Million Dollar Baby). White’s script also earned an Original Screenplay BAFTA nom that year.
“Jimmy White was a lovely man and a terrific writer,” Hackford said today. “His insights as a black man growing up in the South (Kentucky) were an invaluable asset in writing the script for Ray.”
Saver said White worked steadily and was commissioned by studios and networks to write musical-artist-based scripts and was about to direct his own screenplay. According to IMDb he had two such projects in various stages of development: a Bessie Smith biopic titled Empress Of The Blues and an untitled Dinah Washington biopic.
Saver also said White credited good friend Sidney Poitier for giving him his first writing job.
White is survived by his wife Elizabeth, daughters Monee and Martina and son Jimmy. No services will be held.