Jamie Foxx has had a long career as an actor, musician and comedian, but it was with 2004’s Collateral, which was swiftly followed by his performance as Ray Charles in Ray, that sent the thirty nine year-old into orbit, securing him an Oscar nomination for the former and and the golden statuette itself for the latter.
He sings, dances, acts, does impressions and is turning his hand to producing, and when he’s not doing all of that he’s probably finding the cure for cancer or working on world peace or something. So while he makes the rest of the populous look bad, he does it while entertaining, and his CV is making room this month for new entry The Kingdom in which he stars alongside Jennifer Garner and Chris Cooper in an action adventure about a team of FBI agents sent to the Middle East to investigate a terrorist attack on a US colony.
Rotten Tomatoes caught up with Foxx exclusively on the eve of the film’s release to find out more.
The Kingdom is a continuation of your relationship with Michael Mann; is that what made you want to do the film?
Jamie Foxx: Of course. I think that Michael Mann and I are in it for the long haul, you know. This movie is just incredible subject matter. It’s very right now, but the challenge is how do you do it entertainingly? How do you do it with a flair? I think Peter Berg executes it well. It’s not a political movie, it’s not one hand versus the other hand and the other hand wins: it’s a political story. And how he got the performances out of all of us – Ashraf in particular – it just breaks your heart man. It makes the movie worth it.
And the action just kicks ass right at the end. It’s an action-adventure for a reason. A lot of times you see action just happening but to see us motivated to get there, to get to that point, it just works.
Michael seems to understand the balance between entertainment and intelligence. It’s not a big dumb action flick, and it’s not a small, smart political flick either; it’s both of them at the same time.
JF: I think that’s Michael Mann and Peter Berg just taking on this huge beast. Listen, it’s a tough sell right now. People look at the commercial movies and go, “Wow, is that the same thing again?” To be able to do it, and execute it and come to the theatre and be like, “Wow,” that’s why you do it, man. We’ll get to all the popcorn and the fluff and stuff and have fun with that, but something like this goes a long way.
This is also another role to add to an already varied career; is it important for you to be playing new characters every time?
JF: I think it’s important and I think you really have to shun some of the offers you get to play the same character. Ellen Barkin said to me, right during the Oscars for Ray, “if you chase the money, I’ll kill you.” Dead-serious. I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “You know what I mean; if you chase that goofy script, that dumb movie, I’ll kill you.” So you do sit on your hands sometimes because you want to have the one-hundred million dollar box-office thing but if you can find that and at the same time protect that art that you’ve started, that’s a beautiful thing.
You’re also a sickeningly multi-talented man; how do you balance the music and the movies?
JF: I think you have to be humble in it. A lot of times it’s overwhelming because people will say, “OK… Enough…” You become overexposed. So what you do is you take time, pull back, do a record or do a movie where you’re not your persona. So it doesn’t look like you’re banging on your chest and saying, “Look at me, I’m working out, I’m me,” etc. When you do a record, you do a real record.
The record we’re trying to do now; people have sent songs in and they talk about, “I’m an Oscar winner, I’m this, I’m that.” That’s completely the wrong thing to do because now you’re standing on celebrity as opposed to doing a record. Say if you’re doing it about a young lady and you’re singing about what she needs going into her life.
So that’s what you have to do; you have to go backwards and be as humble as you can and as grounded as you can when you’re trying all of these things.
Do you think there’s more to add to the portfolio? You’ve been producing recently; would you be interested in directing?
JF: To be honest, I don’t know if I could direct. I’ve got A.D.D., I’m so hyperactive I don’t know if I could do it. No, the producing I like because I love giving suggestions and things like that, but the directing, no, I think Peter Berg and Michael Mann do such a great job they don’t need me getting into that.
What’s next for you?
JF: I’m doing The Soloist with Joe Wright and Robert Downey Jr., and then hopefully the album will be coming out in 2008 and I can come back to London and perform and do some things and really get that international flavour. Put a scarf on and play the piano, you know what I’m saying, and really get it!