Jamie Foxx and Michelle Monaghan go for the grit in Sleepless, a taut one-night revenge thriller directed by Baran bo Odar from a screenplay by Andrea Berloff opening in theaters this weekend. In this entertaining, character-driven American remake of the 2012 French action hit, Nuit Blanche, Foxx plays a Las Vegas undercover cop caught stealing a large cocaine shipment from a cold-blooded crime boss (Scoot McNairy). When his son is kidnapped in retaliation, his rescue plans are complicated by a tough-as-nails Internal Affairs investigator played by Monaghan.
Collider sat down recently with Foxx and Monaghan at a roundtable interview to promote their new movie. They talked about the appeal of playing flawed characters, their experience working with Odar and his directing style, Monaghan’s knock-down, drag-out fight scene with Foxx that sent him to the dentist, how Foxx met Prince in Las Vegas on New Year’s Eve 1998 and why he will always be his favorite artist, how Jeremy Piven has a tougher time getting work than Foxx, Monaghan’s second season of The Path, Foxx’s thoughts on turning 50 and working on a new album, and his new comedy White Famous with Jay Pharoah.
Baran bo Odar said he gives his actors one word as a connection to their characters. How was it working with him?
MICHELLE MONAGHAN: I will say that is a quality I love about great directors, which is the ability to give you one word that can inspire you. I appreciate a director with a very good vocabulary. There are so many directors that I have worked with that can give you one word. When Bo and I sat down to talk about Jennifer Bryant (Monaghan’s character), we discussed that this was a woman that was very frustrated that was living in a man’s world. As you see, the movie opens and she’s fresh off a bust gone bad where she gets injured. She takes that into the workplace. She really wants to put it behind her, but she’s catching a lot of flak for it from the guys. She uses that frustration, that anger, perhaps that mistake that she made, and puts it forth in this hunt for him, and maybe even to her own detriment. I see her as a flawed character. She lives in a gray world. That was one of the things that spoke to me about both the characters who are doing morally ambiguous things and living in that kind of world.
Jamie, you start off playing a really bad character. What did Bo tell you and how do you see your character?
JAMIE FOXX: Bo talked to me about the sexiness of the character.
MONAGHAN: I can attest to that. Bo would frequently come up and just whisper, “Sexy.”
FOXX: Yes, right in my ear, “Sexy!” Then, I would go and take off. That’s all I needed.
MONAGHAN: You saw him in that jumpsuit.
FOXX: You know what I’m saying? That’s all I needed to get my engine going. (starts to sing) “Sexy! Cops and robbers!” I think there’s grays in characters if you look at all the great characters, those characters that have those layers of being good and being bad and what’s the struggle. It’s always more interesting to watch.
Michelle almost took your tooth out when you guys were fighting? Does she pack a mean punch?
FOXX: Oh yeah.
MONAGHAN: I was a little quick on the draw.
FOXX: My best friend lives in Atlanta. He’s a dentist.
MONAGHAN: He told me, “Keep going.” I had split my knuckle. I was like, “Alright. It hurts!” It was funny the next day because we didn’t bring it up. I felt very sheepish. I was trying to cop a look and I was like, “Oh my God, it’s okay.” But, I didn’t know. I only learned yesterday.
FOXX: My man came and hooked me up and took me to the office and put the porcelain back on.
MONAGHAN: Twelve hours later, he looked brand new.
Bo said you were very entertaining, but sometimes he said it could be awkward. Do you see yourself like the ringleader on the set whose job is to keep everybody up through these 14-hour days?
FOXX: Of course, we had a lot of fun. With both of us, and just us as people, we want to make sure we never forget that we’re doing something that’s called make-believe and it’s Hollywood. Sometimes people can be like, “Oh, I’ve been up 14 hours and all they have is Evian water and craft services is shit. Where’s the caviar?” So, we try to make it like this is something fun to do. What I did notice from working with Oliver Stone on Any Given Sunday was there were 200 extras, and he’s shooting a 16 to 17-hour day at some point, and the guys who played the football players went 8 hours straight knocking each other’s heads off. You know how sets become. I could see that there was about to be a walkout. At one point, when he called action, the guys ran, and ran all the way in, off of the field, into the locker room. You see Oliver Stone standing in the middle of the football field going, “What just happened?” I said to him, “I’ll go talk to them.” I went and asked, “Hey man, what’s the problem?” “Jamie Foxx, we’ve been out there too long.” “Yeah, but you’re out there too long with Oliver Stone, with someone who’s making a movie that’s going to go down in history probably as one of the greatest sports films. And, at the same time, we’re doing something Hollywood. We’re not really hitting each other. So, why don’t we rally up and let’s go back out and get things going?” Your director has a huge job. If you create the dissension, if you create the “oh ah, woe is me,” definitely everybody else will start to do that. It becomes all of our jobs to make sure that we keep it in perspective and get to the finish line.
Jamie, the film is set is Las Vegas and you lived in Vegas for a little while. Why were you living there and what did you like about it?
FOXX: I ran out of money. I was in L.A. in the ’94 earthquake and I had run out of cash. I had just enough cash to get me a little, you know, 5,000 square foot house with a couple acres. It was like $200,000. Nobody was living in Vegas and I just had my daughters at the same time. So, I got out of the city and there I was in Vegas. You could get steak and lobster for $4.99 any time of the day and I was also performing at the Hilton. This was before the Venetian, before all those big hotels. I think the only hotel that was on the new was the Rio. It was an interesting time to be in Las Vegas. I stayed right next to the Mormon Temple. Here’s my house and the Mormon Temple is next door.
Aside from your own music, if you could only listen to one artist for the rest of your life, who would it be?
FOXX: Prince. Absolutely. I got a chance to sneak away and see his concert when he did When Doves Cry. I never seen nobody like that with that much talent. God bless him. He was amazing. It was like if you were a Michael Jackson fan or a Prince fan, Michael Jackson was great, but Prince was so amazing. I met him in the most uncomfortable way. I met Prince on December 31st, 1998. It’s about to be 1999. I met Prince in Las Vegas. The Time was doing a show at Studio 54. They had just finished the MGM Grand. I look up and see Prince and I start crying. It was weird, because you’re used to seeing people there. I was like, “Oh snap! I’m tripping right now.” I said something stupid, not stupid, but you know how fans are, “Man, you know who you are? I know who you are, dawg!” I’m marching. Black people march. I just went nuts. I didn’t know what to say. I started singing the songs. I was like, “I remember when you had… I know the B-sides.” I started singing all the B sides of his songs and he was like, “Yeah, well, thank you.” It was just this low voice. I begged for a picture. This was back in the day. There wasn’t no smartphone. You had to have your thumb on the camera and I do, “Damn! I’m out! Oh fuck! It’s Prince!” I can’t erase shit. This was my moment. I go into the thing and The Time is playing and they’re doing their thing, and then Morris Day says, “Alright, break it down a little bit. Now I’m about to bring somebody out here, and don’t y’all act the fool when he comes out here. And I’m not gonna let him sing. I’m just gonna let him play.” Then, Prince walked out. He did a wardrobe change. He comes out in a purple feather bomber jacket and these black pants, and he had a huge purple guitar with the big Gucci shades. They started playing “Down in San Francisco” and he did a guitar solo. He was so cool.
This is a business that seems to burn people up. You’re hot and then you’re gone, but both of you have sustained these careers. How do you stay alive in Hollywood today with the social media, the different outlets, and all that?
MONAGHAN: I have been working for a long time. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is 12 years or maybe longer than that. I think the first thing is to recognize that there is an ebb and flow to your career. There are going to be moments that are really high, and then you’re going to have moments where you step away for a little bit, and maybe that’s just by choice or maybe you have a family. For me, something that’s been always really important to me, that’s also really served me well in hindsight, is doing different things, trying to cross different genres, and dipping my toes into comedy and drama and action here and there. Fortunately, as I’ve been working, the industry has also changed where you’re able to dip your toes into different mediums, where it’s not just independent film and studio film, but now you’ve got TV, and you’re able to do all these different things. For me, it’s just a matter of continually pushing myself and challenging myself. I have a lot of fun. I’m passionate about what I do. I really love that. I feel blessed beyond words that I’m in a career that I love, and as a result of that, I will continue to work as long as the industry will have me. When they won’t, I’ll still tell them they need to.
FOXX: An agent told me one day, “Foxx, the world is going to change.” This was about 10 years ago. I said, “What do you mean?” “This whole thing called the internet and all this other kind of stuff is about to go crazy. It’s all going to change. But, you know what’s not going to change? The talented people. I mean, you are talented. No matter what, you will always have an opportunity to work in this business.” He said the ones that should be afraid are the ones who may have something propping them up. He said, “If you can, always be appreciative of the ebb and flow of the losses and the wins. What I’ve noticed is that when people win huge and they have those huge, huge successes, sometimes they forget about the actual acting of it, and sometimes it’s hard to come down from their perch.” He said, “If you always look at it as like another job and another opportunity to flex your muscle as an actor or a singer or whatever, you’ll always be able to work.” You know what? It’s the absolute truth. You look at it now, what’s interesting is because of all of the internet, the ones that really act stick out more, because you do see so much of, “Is that really good? Am I tripping? They’ve got these many lights, but is that really what I like?” So, it’s literally that. I’ll talk to Jeremy Piven who I think is one of the most incredible actors. I will say to Jeremy, “Jeremy, it’s tough being a white male actor.” He says, “What do you mean?” I said, “It’s a billion of you. I mean, there’s a billion white male actors.” I said, “Jeremy, there’s nine of us. I’m gonna work. You know what I’m saying? There’s me, there’s Will (Smith), there’s Samuel (Jackson), there’s a few others, and they gotta call me at some point.”
What do each of you have coming up next?
And Jamie, you’ve got a television show?
FOXX: We’ve got a couple television shows coming. We got one called White Famous that’s pretty cool about a black comedian. All of us black comedians are trying to be mainstream, but you don’t want to lose the edge. There’s Jay Pharoah, who plays the guy, and he’s constantly being tempted to do something. The episode is called “Will You Wear a Dress?” In black comedic culture, there’s always been a thing about “Man, I ain’t gotta wear a dress to be funny!” But I’ve done it. Eddie’s done it. We’ve all worn dresses. In the first pilot episode, Jay Pharoah is like, “You can have the part.” The thing is he thinks he’s getting one part for the guys, and he says, “No, you play the girl.” And he’s like, “Ah man! I don’t want to wear a dress.” “Why? This could launch you!” “Ah man, I don’t know!” He actually comes to see me to talk about it. He says, “Jamie Foxx wants to see you.” So, he comes on my set and I’m in my dressing room, and when he walks in, I come from around the corner and I already have a dress on. I say, “What seems to be the problem?” I’m in the dress the whole time and I’m talking to him like, “So, brother, you gotta have the balls to go out there and be funny, man. You know what happened? When I was accepting my Oscar, I had this dress on underneath.” So, it’s that.
When are you going to do some more music?
FOXX: I’m doing something now. We’re recording.
Will it be out in 2017 before you turn 50?
FOXX: Yeah. I’ll be 50. How about that?!
How do you feel about turning 50?
FOXX: My daughter’s like, “Dad, will you please catch up to your age?” Me and all my friends, we just act the same like we’ve always acted years ago, but I think it’s a different time. When I was coming up, if you’d say “Fifty!”… It’s funny, I go to DJ clubs and the average age is 21, 22. They see me hanging out with Drake. They see me hanging out with Kanye. They think I’m young like them. So, I’m hanging with these girls and I go, “How old are you guys?” and they go, “I’m 21, and she’s 22, and oh my God, she’s ancient. She’s 27.” I’m like, “Really!?” Then, she asked me how old I was, and when I told her how old I was, you would have thought I told her I had a terminal disease. She said, “How old are you?” I said, “49.” She said, “Oh my God, 49! Can’t you die from that. C’mon, girls! Get together. He’s got 49.” I think it’s the way you live your life. I live young and I keep the weight off of me.
MONAGHAN: You’re young at heart. There’s no question.
Sleepless opens January 13th.