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Sitting down with one of the big names in this business this week was a really cool opportunity. I am honored to have on the show today, Academy Award-winning director, producer, and screenwriter, Taylor Hackford. 

Taylor’s has directed films like An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), White Nights (1985), Proof of Life (2000), Dolores Claiborne (1995), Against All Odds (1984), Parker (2013), the iconic Ray Charles biopic, Ray of 2004, and The Comedian (2016) just to name a few. He also has served as president of the Directors Guild of America and is married to the incomparable acting legend Helen Mirren. 

Long before gaining popularity, Hackford had an interesting journey on his climb-up.  Taylor served in the US Peace Corps in Bolivia after college. Before then, while pursuing his studies in law there was an odd turn of events. Inspired by mutual friends who were film students, Hackford, quit school and sought out an entry-level position with KCET TV in LA. There, he learned and grew. He did everything. From office assistance to investigative reporting, which earned him two Emmys and an Associated Press Award, to documentaries, short films, and directing. 

Hackford racked up his first hit directing and writing Teenage Father in 1978. The film won an Academy Award for Best Short Subject. It explores the life of a 17-year-old senior boy who is a soon-to-be father with his girlfriend, a 15-year-old sophomore. They evaluate the decisions about how they got here, and the decisions on what they will do next.

He then went on to direct the very successful romantic drama film, Officer and a Gentleman in 1982. Recognized as the best film of the year and grossing $190 million from a $7 million budget. The film also made history at the Academy Awards where a black man, Louis Gossett Jr. won the Oscars for Best Supporting Actor for the first time in Academy history. The film tells the story of Zack Mayo (Gere), a United States Navy Aviation Officer Candidate who is beginning his training at Aviation Officer Candidate School. While Zack meets his first true girlfriend during his training, a young “townie” named Paula, he also comes into conflict with the hard-driving Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley training his class.

Besides winning two Academy Awards, the film also won a BAFTA, two Golden Globes, one Grammy, one NAACP Image Awards, a Japan Academy Film Prize, National Board of Review 10 best films of the year awards, and a Writers Guild of America Awards.

If this isn’t every director’s dream, I don’t know what is. Of course, success like this sets the bar even higher for oneself and can make or break any filmmaker. 

Another of Taylor’s classic is 1997 The Devil’s Advocate starring Al Pacino, Keanu Reeves, Charlize Theron, Connie Nielsen, Craig T. Nelson, Judith Ivey

An exceptionally adept Florida lawyer is offered a job to work in New York City for a high-end law firm with a high-end boss – the biggest opportunity of his career to date.

Taylor Hackford delivered another outstanding film in 2004. Ray. The biographical musical film on the three decades journey of the legendary blues musician, Ray Charles—from his humble beginnings in the South, where he went blind at age seven, to his meteoric rise to stardom during the 1950s and 1960s. It starred triple threat actor, Jamie Foxx. 

Ray received riveting reviews from the critics and multiple awards including Best Actor at the Academy. 

Hackford’s most recent work he produced or directed is The Comedian, starring Robert De Niro, Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, and other big names. 

The film plot has Jackie (Robert De Niro) who is a comic icon, attempting to reinvent himself despite his audience only wanting to know him as a television character he played earlier in his career. It is a look at the life of an aging insult comic named Jack Burke.

It was certainly incredible to sit back and chat with Taylor. His Ray Charles story alone is worth the process of admission, trust me. Enjoy my conversation with Taylor Hackford.

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