It's been eight years since Jamie Foxx won an Oscar for portraying the late soul musician Ray Charles in the critically-acclaimed Taylor Hackford biopic and though he's had at least one movie come out almost every year in between, the heat that once surrounded Foxx had considerably cooled leading up to his casting as the titular slave in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, after the director courted Will Smith, Chris Tucker and Idris Elba.
But any recent lack of time in Hollywood's fickle spotlight hasn't dulled Foxx's enthusiasm or desire to impress. Co-starring with Christoph Waltz, Kerry Washington, who plays his on-screen wife for a second time, and Leonardo DiCaprio, the Oscar winner was eager to learn from those around him, especially his cinephile director.
While at Comic-Con this past July, we had the opportunity to speak with Foxx about immersing himself in Tarantino's reference-heavy world, telling Leo it was okay to be mean and trying not to be Jamie Foxx.
Read what he had to say below and stay tuned for more Django Unchained interviews.
CINEPLEX: From what we heard at the panel, Quentin asked you to "get your slave on"; to basically break out of the movie star mindset. Has a director ever been so direct with you before and how does that affect your performance?
JAMIE FOXX: "Yeah. Of course. Like, I've worked with Oliver Stone, who said, 'You're just not good at all are you? You're not a good actor at all,' because I was coming from TV and this was Any Given Sunday so everything I said was really loud because TV was loud. And Michael Mann, c'mon, Mr. Research Guy. During Collateral I said, 'Mike, you know I'm doing my thing man, you know. I'm kind of moving on up, you know? How about in the cab I do my thing?' And he says 'How about you don't do your thing? When have you ever seen a cab driver doing their thing? And why don't you just drive a cab? And the person that's in the back seat is not Tom Cruise. Just another…fare. Just another Wednesday. Just another Thursday. If you do that, then you can be this character. If you do the other thing, you're Jamie Foxx.' So that's all welcomed and you want to work with directors like that. You want to work with the tough directors."
CINEPLEX: What kind of cinematic homework did Quentin give you as far as reference points for your character?
JF: "Well, for one he's a cinematic genius when it comes to...it's defeating when you try and watch all these movies, you're like, 'F--k, I can't watch all these movies!' But we watched the original  Django, you know and that was helpful in a sense because everybody is thinking slavery and I kept telling everyone, I said 'Yeah, it's the backdrop but it's actually a Western' and I think by watching the Western and me coming from Texas, and then [Quentin] tells me we're going to wear the green jacket from 'Bonanza'.... Let's just be honest, when I was at BET and I introduced the clip and I'm getting ready to introduce the Django clip, and I said, 'It's a movie dealing with slavery,' people were like 'Ohhh.' And I was like 'Man, how am I going to deal with this?' And then they see this iconic cowboy. It really [makes all] the difference."
CINEPLEX: Was it Quentin who created this atmosphere where the actors were able to create something authentic and really go there in terms of the characters, especially the villain Leonardo plays, or was it everyone together?
JF: "Here it is: Once we went into this, we were family. We were a village. There was a situation where Leonardo would go, 'Buddy....'' I said, 'Listen, it has be another Wednesday. I have to be cattle. I have to be your foe. This has to be nothing for you. You don't have to get your blood boiling to say these words, if this guy is this real guy.' And when you see Leonardo come in, and not speak to anybody and go right into it. And watch him and Quentin Tarantino work and build this eloquent, evil character. That's the difference between him and Samuel L. Jackson; they were like the real bad guys, you know? So with that being said, we knew what it was about and we actually wanted to hear that. We wanted to hear those words. Because hearing those words and you hear them enough and that becomes second hand because at the time, that's the way they talked. You know this is the actual, truest version of a picture that's depicting slaves."
CINEPLEX: We've seen Leonardo play someone bad before but never like this. What was it like going head-to-head with him?
Foxx and DiCaprio in a scene from Django Unchained (Courtesy of Alliance Films)
JF: "Let me tell you something about Leonardo. First of all, he's 6'2", he come in there with all the good looks, you know he's on the tabloids with the models, and everybody is wondering, is he going to be that guy? And he comes in and he is absolutely his character. It makes you go back to your hotel room and really get yourself together cause you know you have to be tight. I think it was great for him because I know he shies away from the commercial fame. He doesn't like the commercial fame. He wants to be that student. There is one scene I think I can let out of the bag, where he... finds us out, who we are and he slams his hand on the table every take and every take he's hard and I'm like 'Wow!' And at one point, somehow, the shot glass slid over to where his hand is supposed to be. He slams his hand on the table, breaks the shot glass, goes through his hand! Blood. He's still going. And I'm like a little girl, I'm like looking at it like 'Ooohh, he's SO courageous. He's an Avenger!' People came up and gave him a standing ovation, if that's any indication of what it [was like.] He was amazing."
Django Unchained opens in Cineplex theatres December 25.
--With files from Aimee Castle
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