James L. White, who grew up in Mount Sterling and wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-winning 2004 Ray Charles biopic Ray, has died. He was 67.
The Associated Press reported that his attorney, Matthew Saver, said in a statement that White died Thursday from cancer at his home in Santa Monica, Calif.
Ray was White's only feature credit, the AP said, although he worked on unproduced screenplays.
In a 2004 interview with the Herald-Leader, White recalled how he and Charles bonded over their rural roots.
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When he told Charles he was from a town 35 miles east of Lexington, White said Charles, an Albany, Ga. native, said, "So you're from the country."
"Bang," White recalled. "Once he found out I was from the country, he opened right up."
White said his desire to write came from a love of reading. He served in the Navy and then studied at the University of Massachusetts before moving to Los Angeles in the 1970s to pursue screen writing.
Writing Ray, White also discovered both he and Charles had been heroin addicts and kicked the habit when they were faced with losing their families. The script for Ray was considered surprisingly honest for an authorized biopic.
White says Charles "demanded" he include the dark details, including womanizing. "He always said, 'Tell the truth.'"
After filming Ray, he came to Kentucky for three weeks to relax and said, "There's not a day goes by that I don't think about home."
White is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and three children.
There will be no funeral services at White's request.