The Fearless Mr. Foxx
Jamie Foxx is on a multitrack mission—and no creative terrain is out-of-bounds.
Makeup by Lalette Littlejohn Hair by Deidra Dixon
This could be a problem. For directors, that is. Jamie Foxx knows the shots so well, he could probably direct the movie himself. Keep in mind, we’re talking about one of only two men on the planet to have received Academy Award nominations for two films in the same year. And the other is Al Pacino. The man won an Oscar for Ray. We’re talking about Django here, people. The guy’s entitled to an opinion. And if the directors in his future are smart enough, hearing him out might just result in a better movie.
“When Spider-Man came along I jumped at the chance because it is an acting piece,” Foxx tells me. “A lot of people think it’s just a superhero thing.” When Foxx explains the background of Electro’s character, or Max Dillon as the embattled electrician is known by day, he speaks with the familiarity of an old friend. “Max was married,” he says. “His wife left him, his father left when he was young. He’s a broken spirit.” Foxx wanted to communicate this complexity in the movie. He found an opportunity in a scene where Dillon, on the morning of his birthday, comes down to the kitchen for breakfast and finds his mother sitting at the table. “When he asks his mom, ‘Mom, don’t you want to say something to me today?’ he thinks she is going to say Happy Birthday. But she says, ‘Yeah, like I tell you every day, you’re a dummy.’”
At this moment Foxx transforms into Max Dillon before my eyes. Sitting in his chair, he squares off to me and looks me dead in the eye. His voice, facial expression, and posture simultaneously shift in unison like a car seat returning its incline, height, and position to its owner’s preprogrammed preference. Poised to perform, Foxx acts out the scene before me as though the cameras are rolling:
“ ‘Yeah, but other than that, Mom. Forty-three years ago; Presbyterian Hospital; seven pounds, three ounces…’
‘Is this a riddle?’
‘Maybe this rings a bell: [Sings ‘Happy Birthday’ melody] Da Da Da Da Da Da…’
“And she says, ‘The only thing ringing is my ears from your voice.’ And then, I asked the director, Can we play with reality right here? Can I say what is really on my mind and then go back? So when she says the only thing ringing is my voice, I say…”
Foxx takes a breath and then blasts out the next few lines with rapid intensity: “ ‘My voice is amazing! I should be singing hooks for famous rappers! What’s going on in my head? You have no idea! Women think I’m cute, I have an electrifying personality, and Spiderman thinks I’m special!’ ” He allows the oxygen to flow back into his lungs, then exhales slowly, and Jamie Foxx is back in the building.
“That scene, without putting a costume on, it grabs you,” he says.
“We took it a step further.”
Acting isn’t the only thing that Foxx is taking a step further—that would be too linear. Foxx tells me he’s just as interested in advancing behind the camera as he is in front of it, specifically in the director’s chair. (Quadruple threat much?) “I don’t want to die and not have all of the ideas that I want to do out,” he says.
Foxx’s chance to yell out “Action” came last year when he was approached by director Ron Howard to direct a short film for Canon’s Project Imaginat10n. Howard challenged Foxx, along with actress Eva Longoria, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, fashion designer Georgina Chapman, and LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy to each create a short film inspired by 10 photographs of their choosing. Foxx’s film, which at press time was scheduled to premiere at the Canon Project Imaginat10n Film Festival on Oct. 24 (all the films to be made available the day after on Yahoo!, Oct. 25), is titled …And She Was My Eve and tells the story of a man, scarred early in life by unrequited love, who works to attain the perfect mate and in the end gets more than he bargained for. “This is a new frontier,” Foxx says. “It’s a proving ground, and I think that’s what makes us work better—when we’ve got to prove ourselves.” Howard calls the film “unconventional and creative.” Talk to Foxx about directing for more than five seconds and you’ll get a pretty good idea where the “unconventional” part comes from.
“I learned with Quentin Tarantino,” Foxx tells me. “He taught me how to shoot, how to take my time shooting with one camera, how to make it lean. I learned a lot.” One of the best lessons Foxx has learned behind the camera is one that could be applied to almost any line of work. “Sometimes you’ve got to let [actors] go, and not try to micromanage every little thing, because you miss stuff,” he tells me. “A couple of times I missed a few things in a take and I was like, ‘I should have let that play out.’”