Jamie Foxx, Oscar winner, continues to take on films that challenge him in different ways. In The Kingdom, the actor plays an FBI agent who leads as team of agents to to Saudi Arabia to investigate a mass terrorist attack, and next up, he will play a homeless cellist. For Foxx, he yearns to be more than your typical movie star. With typical humour and intellect, Foxx talked to Paul Fischer.
Question: Can you tell talk a little bit about what this film meant to you and how you did everything? You did comedy and action…
Foxx: You know it was fun to be able to work with Michael Mann again, work with Peter Berg who I’ve always admired as an actor and as a director so to be able to work with him with a subject matter that is pretty intense but the way Peter Berg was saying no just say this line right here, I guarantee you’re going to get a laugh. Say this line right here because we have to get the entertainment also at the same time and so it was just a fun ride, you know.
Question: Do you think this is a chance to be a box office hit because tackling a serious subject factor into you saying yes to a movie?
Foxx: I don’t know if when you’re working with Michael Mann and you’re working with Peter Berg that’s not the first thing you think about is the commercial success. The first thing you think about is the work of it, the art of it. When you look at Al Pacino and we did his cinematek something…something where we honored him and you look at his body of work–all the body of work that he did that most of the…they weren’t the commercial success but they were the ones you remembered. So, not to say that I don’t want to be commercially successful so I don’t want to have to hear you say that again, but you know that you’re doing a piece that when you look back on it you know you can be happy about it I think.
Question: Can you talk about the balance of this movie it tries to make between politics and entertainment? How much research did you do into Saudi Arabia and that whole thing?
Foxx: The research started out with first of all we got a chance to over where the federal agents train for this and they show you bombs. That’s what was crazy, like seeing them blow stuff up in front of you, and to see how their approach was as opposed to mine. I was like oh my God, what are they going to do? It was just another day in the office for them, so we had to sort of match that like it’s not how we view it. We view it on this huge scale and they view it like I’ve got to get up and go to work, this may happen, this may not happen and so that was the reason for putting some of the jokes in there, making it light because this is the way these guys are. Then it was just painting a picture.
Question: And the balance between politics and entertainment in this movie?
Foxx: I don’t know if it was necessary political as it was when you watched Ashraf’s character you lock onto him and say wow, look at this dude who’s a cop in Saudi Arabia. How does he work within this and you sort of…I did…sort of follow him and watching his plight and it wasn’t political it was just about this guy trying to go to work and do his job.
Question: Jamie, in the last 3 years all of the dramatic movies you’ve come out in, it seems like now people know if they see you in a drama you’re going to bring it and it’s going to be good. Have you noticed a real shift in the perception where maybe before people might have been surprised that a comedian is doing some drama?
Foxx: Yeah, and I’m going to tell you what it sometimes pulls at your comedic soul because you watch a Rush Hour or you’ll watch Sandler and Stiller and Murphy and you just go man, but every comic role that I did sort of was like in the lane of someone else, so you’d get compared or if it wasn’t as good as Murphy, it was like horrible. If it wasn’t as good as Tucker it was bad. So by having this sort of lane of not necessarily drama but just character and doing pieces I’m happy with that lane and then Sirius Radio gave me a chance to get my own comedy station so if you ever want to hear how it’s going down with the jokes hit me on Sirius 106 in the Fox Hole and we’ll give it to you good over there. Don’t write in because it gets bad sometimes.
Question: You just finished a six month tour of course, and I’m just wondering for you did that kind of help you re-energize and tell us about that?
Foxx: It helped me get it out because we write 10 jokes a day. I hang out with nothing but comedians and so we sit and write all these jokes. They said well, they wanted me go out and do a music tour and they wanted me to sing first but the album wasn’t hot anymore. The album was hot at one time. You know if you don’t get out there while the album’s hot there ain’t nobody trying to hear it. So I said I gotta do comedy first and get my jones and them come back and do my music within the same show and they fought me on it, but when we finally went to San Diego and we did the comedy first people got the chance–people who’ve been coming to see you perform for years got a chance–oh, he ain’t changed. You go to Detroit and there’s 12,000 mostly black folks that’s wearing mustard suits and hats and drinking dark liquor and sitting it the stage and “holla at me Foxx!” They don’t want you to come over and I won the Oscar and ….they don’t want to hear all that. Most of them don’t even know. But man, I love the Grammy you got. Talk about the Grammy, Foxx! So you know it was a chance for me to really get back and get away from–I don’t ever want to get behind those gates and the dogs and whatever it is and kind of loose that thing, you know?
Question: You improvised and used Terrell, Texas. How did that happen? I didn’t even know they had a newspaper.
Foxx: Yeah, Terrell has a newspaper about 14 pages and Peter Berg says say Terrell right there. You know it’s good to tip your hat because in that town man, that town at one point seemed so like on an island because it was 12,000 people. Railroad track separated you from the north and south side. You know, even being brought up in Texas I thought it was blacks, whites and Mexicans. I had never heard Jewish. Maybe I just didn’t pay attention until I got to L.A. and this all these different things so it’s good to kind of let them in on what’s going on. Your hometown, you know, they always want to know did you forget about us. Don’t forget about us down here in Terrell.
Question: Jamie, this has got one of the great action sequences. I’ve been talking to people and every city where this has been screened would cheer in the middle of this. How dangerous or how hard was that because from what I understand it was pretty much improvised and can you talk just about the physical stuff?
Foxx: I’ll tell you the danger of it. The danger was sort of the climate. We were in Phoenix. It was 115 maybe 130 degrees on that black top so you had to pay attention to yourself. That’s why I think Jennifer Garner is the strongest person in the world. After having a child and getting back into shape and being out in those conditions and handling it. The other danger was that we had to pay attention to was there were a lot of guns going off simultaneously so you had to make sure you weren’t in anybody’s path. Even though they were blanks, it could still cause damage and then the physicality of you know going through those hallways, blowing up stuff and just…but that’s the fun part of it. That’s what you dreamt about when you were a kid and you say like man, I want to blow stuff up and be the hero and run through and save the day. Although it was taxing, it was still fun.
Question: Were you part of the group that went into for a week or 8 days…
Foxx: Over in Abu Dhabi? Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. It was beautiful over there. They treated us well over there and it was the most incredible visual you’ll ever see. It’s like the palace was 850,000 square kilometers. I was a mile away from my sister’s room and it was just incredible. Any food you want, any kind of cuisine, I mean it was…it makes the food court here look crazy. It was different worlds. They pick you up in a Phantom you know the Phantom Rolls Royce. It was like shooting a music video the whole time. They picked you up in a Rolls Royce, they brought in a Mercedes and there was guns and all kinds of …
Question: Jennifer was like the only girl with all these guys and I’m wondering if you’re one of those guys that when a girl’s in a room with a bunch of guys do you watch what you say or are you making her one of the guys?
Foxx: I’m a southern gentleman. I don’t do the whole nasty stuff.
Question: What else are you working on? I understand there could be another biography in the works?
Foxx: Yeah, there’s a great one called The Soloist with Joe Wright and if you haven’t seen his films, he’s opening the Venice Film Festival with his movie Atonement. Beautiful film. The youngest director to open up the Venice Film Festival. We’re doing a story called The Soloist about a guy who lived under the L.A. freeway. He’s schizophrenic. A guy from the L.A. Times Steve Lopez has a wreck on his bicycle, hears this beautiful music coming from a violin only on 2 strings and he sees this guy and writes this story about him and the next thing you know they get this bond together. So beautiful. It’s one of those pieces that where you go like wow, this is one of those.
Question: How much time you have to prepare for that role? Are you learning to play the violin?
Foxx: Learning to play the cello and the violin.
Question: Just sort of the research I assume that you’re all trying to film it before the strike?
Foxx: The research — we’ll have plenty of time to film it before the strike. We went downtown to where he lives and this guy he’s still posh even within his situation so wherever he’s sleeping he cleans as far as he can see. He cleans that area before he sleeps. He pays attention to detail like you wouldn’t believe. Not to give the whole thing away but when he plays that’s what drowns out the voices in his head. You have a voice in your head right now, right that tells you I’ve got to get home and clean up this thing. Oh, I left this on the…imagine having 12 voices going on in your head at the same time. So he’s an incredible person.
Question: Do you resemble him physically at all?
Foxx: Yeah, he’s African-American, a black dude.
Question: How do you pick the roles that you do and having won an Oscar does that play a part in your saying no, I won an Oscar I can’t do that anymore?
Foxx: Yeah, I mean, I want to do everything. I want to do the Rush Hours, I wanted to do all the stuff but I have a great team with the agents and my managers who said Foxx if you do that you may put yourself out there and you may not be able to come back to what you’ve built and he said those people in this room, you’re not necessarily catering to them but you have to use them as a measuring stick for your body of work, so whenever we go into something we see how much we can get out of it and how smart, how clever and how provocative we can be and how we can show you something different because your fans, you know, most of your fans are going to go and support and see what you do and say oh, I liked that but when you think of people that are writing about you and sort of watching your career you think along the lines of what will they say? What question will they ask you about this character since you did this character that way, so that’s the beauty of picking the pieces.
Question: How do you go about working? Do you like to rehearse like 25,000 times before you actually do the take, or do you just like to just go for it? And the second question is what is your idea of perfect happiness?
Foxx: Ok, wow. The way you do the…it’s different like with Michael Mann you’re going to rehearse. You’re going to rehearse so much until you’re almost numb but what happens is now when you start you’re not acting at all. You’re just that person. With Peter Berg it was different because he wanted to catch things on the fly and flash because this movie is like I said intense. So he wanted to catch things that were happening organic and quick so it depends on who you’re working with. Oliver Stone you have to work. You have to really, really work. And perfect happiness? Man, the pool is about 92 degrees, the Jacuzzi is about 102 and an avocado farm.
Question: Do you want go back to your pure comedy roots and do a comedy movie?
Foxx: It’s got to be smart though. It’s got to be smart. If it’s not smart I can’t do it.
Question: Is there going to be an album from the tour? In other words is there a night that you recorded that will be…?
Foxx: Oh, we’ve got DVD’s. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ve got DVD’s.
Question: Is it out yet?
Foxx: Not yet but we’re going to get it cranking.