Jamie Foxx Interview – THE KINGDOM

     September 27, 2007

Jamie Foxx is one of those movie stars that everyone seems to like. While he’s not yet on the level of a Will Smith, he’s fast approaching the status with his great choices for work and always working with a top director. And after his work in the great action movie “The Kingdom,” I think his star is only going to get brighter.

So to help promote the new Peter Berg film, Jamie recently did a press conference type interview and the transcript is posted below.

During our 20 minute conversation,Jamie came across as very funny and also totally willing to make fun of himself and his previous career choices… like “Stealth.” It’s a great read.

And if you missed the movie clips I previously posted, you might want to watch them before reading the interview. Also, here’s the synopsis in case you don’t know what the movie is about:

When a terrorist bomb detonates inside a Western housing compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, an international incident is ignited. While diplomats slowly debate equations of territorialism, FBI Special Agent Ronald Fleury (Foxx) quickly assembles an elite team (Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) and negotiates a secret five-day trip into Saudi Arabia to locate the madman behind the bombing.

Upon landing in the desert kingdom, however, Fleury and his team discover Saudi authoritiessuspicious and unwelcoming of American interlopers into what they consider a local matter. Hamstrung by protocol—and with the clock ticking on their five days—theFBI agents find their expertise worthless without the trust of their Saudicounterparts, who want to locate the terrorist in their homeland on their own terms.

Fleury’s crew finds a like-minded partner in Saudi Police Captain Al-Ghazi (Ashraf Barhoum), who helps them navigate royal politics and unlock the secrets of the crime scene and the workings of an extremist cell bent on further destruction. With these unlikely allies sharing a propulsive commitment to crack the case, the team is led to the killer’s front door in a blistering do-or-die confrontation. Now in a fight for their own lives, strangers united by one mission won’t stop until justice is found in The Kingdom.

As always, you can either read the transcript below or download the audio as an MP3 here.

“The Kingdom” opens at theaters tomorrow.

Question: Hey, Jamie. Great performance in a great film. Can you tell talk a little bit about what this film meant to you and how you did everything? You did comedy and action…

Jamie 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.

Jamie, that’s what I was going to ask. You were in Jarhead, a movie that a very few people saw (Jamie makes a face and the room laughs).

Jamie Foxx: That movie did very well. It didn’t? I don’t know. Shit. I don’t know. It’s better than Stealth. I mean come on you know what I’m saying. I gotta get it right.

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?

Jamie 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.

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?

Jamie 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.

And the balance between politics and entertainment in this movie draws—do you think there is…?

Jamie 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.

He said he didn’t know who you or Jennifer Garner were.

Jamie Foxx: He’s lying. He’s lying. He knows me. He asked me for my autograph the whole nine, he was taking pictures and signing his chest—the whole nine. Don’t let him lie to you. He was marveling.

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?

Jamie 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.

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?

Jamie 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?

You improvised and used Terrell, Texas. How did that happen? I didn’t even know they had a newspaper.

Jamie 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.

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?

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.

What about your stunt man? Did you really do it all?

Jamie Foxx: I did it all…I’m lying. I didn’t do all the stunts but I was probably the worst. Can you get in there? But it’s fun because you get a chance to hang out with those stunt guys and the one thing about stunt people is that they have a voice too and they have a thing they want to show us, so hats off to those guys that were trying to show you new moves, trying to show you different thing because you’ve seen every probably every stunt in the world. You guys have seen every movie but to see them put their thing on there is fabulous.

Were you part of the group that went into for a week or 8 days…

Jamie 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 …

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?

Jamie Foxx: I’m a southern gentleman. I don’t do the whole nasty stuff.

What else are you working on? I understand there could be another biography in the works?

Jamie 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.

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You’ve also got a lot of ensemble movies where you’re kind of the leader of the group. Do you have a sense of that being a leader on these projects?

Jamie Foxx: I think what’s best for me right now is having that ensemble because until you graduate to your Will Smith level it’s good to have people around. Yeah, you’ve got to graduate to that. That’s some big boots up in there but I like having it that way because I’m used to sort of playing with the ensemble in the In Living Color days it was ensemble even when you work with someone like Will Smith I was able to fit in somewhere so I like that comfortable spot where you’re not having to put everything on your shoulders and you working with people like Chris Cooper, you’re working with Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman so you know that you’re in good company.

Jamie, back to The Soloist I was wondering just how much time you have to prepare for that role? Are you learning to play the violin?

Jamie Foxx: Learning to play the cello and the violin.

Just sort of the research I assume that you’re all trying to film it before the strike?

Jamie 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.

Who’s playing the reporter?

Jamie Foxx: I don’t want to say right because I don’t know if the deal is done right now.

Do you resemble him physically at all?

Jamie Foxx: Yeah, he’s African-American (the room laughs). He’s a black dude.

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?

Jamie 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.

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?

Jamie 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, that’s a…the pool is about 92 degrees, the Jacuzzi is about 102 and an avocado farm.

You were just mentioning Peter Berg and one thing I noticed watching the movie the other night is that he really likes close ups and I was just wondering are you cognoscente of that when he’s shooting you and you’ve got like just your eyes and nose?

Jamie Foxx: Yeah, and that’s a little bit of the Michael Mann school, too. If you notice that by him being Michael Mann’s protégé he likes to catch those angles and what was great about Peter is that he was grabbing everything even why he was just sitting around. Grab that, shoot that. Then him being an actor it feeds into his process of showing you the movie because he knows what he wants to see and you as an actor watching a movie you know what you want to see in that movie and he’s able to give that to you.

But as an actor how does that…I mean are you cognoscente that…?

Jamie Foxx: Oh no you just keep doing your thing I think.

When you see the finished movie and so much of this is improvised, do they ask you we want to put in these 4 scenes that were deleted from the film just because they’re fun and will you do a commentary for DVD’s? Do you like that?

Jamie Foxx: Oh, yeah you do whatever they ask you to do you know. It’s their vision and you’re still a worker so it’s a…I think they know what they’re doing.

Would you do a commentary?

Jamie Foxx: Sure.

As an African-American in leadership, did you come up with a different approach in how you wanted to make that…?

Jamie Foxx: Yes, I did.

I knew you did.

Jamie Foxx: I was into it. What you saying—what do you mean?

What I mean is did you use a different type of leadership style or did you…?

Jamie Foxx: Yes, most definitely. Whenever you do a piece you always ask is there anyone who’s African-American who’s doing his job, even when we were doing the Marine’s they had me meet with Marine’s that were Caucasian. I said I want to find and I went out on my own and found a brother who was in the Marine’s. He said first of all when …saying like this job it’s colorless and he said with the black folks that were in the Marine’s he was on them tougher. He said don’t come in here acting like we’re all cool. You’re going to have to work harder because I had to work. And then he switched and said but when he’d march…because he had me do my march…this was during Jarhead and I did my march and he no, no, no. Here’s the difference. You gotta roll your feet. They know what’s going on and he made sure my shoes would shine just a little extra because he said in life, as an African-American, we have to work a little harder. Hold ourselves to a different standard so you take that and you put that within the movie–the same way with the federal agent and everything like that. You say ok, you gotta work a little harder because you know you have to make sure they really respect you and you have to do things differently because, you know, that is the real world. So that’s what you do.

Was the FBI culture so totally different that way though? It seemed to be so entrenched as white guys for so long—male.

Jamie Foxx: Well, like I said you still have to work a little harder and you still have to hold—I say within myself, ok you’ve got to come in and do it a little different. Saying put more professionalism on it, don’t make that joke right now, stay right here right now because they are watching you a little different. That’s what I think helps the character, you know?

Do you have any specific scenes you like best in the movie?

Jamie Foxx: I just like all the action stuff towards the end. The whole way it rides out at the end and solving the situation at the end and people cheering at the end of it. I just like that whole…anytime it’s action I just dig that.

Do you want go back to your pure comedy roots and do a comedy movie?

Jamie Foxx: It’s got to be smart though. It’s got to be smart. If it’s not smart I can’t do it.

Is there going to be an album from the tour? In other words is there a night that you recorded that will be…?

Jamie Foxx: Oh, we’ve got DVD’s. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ve got DVD’s.

Is it out yet?

Jamie Foxx: Not yet but we’re going to get it cranking.

Hey Jamie, you played the father with the son. Did that make you call on your daughter, you know to fill in…did she do that?

Jamie Foxx: Yeah, anytime anybody has a kid, you know how you feel when you have a kid, you look at the world differently because your kid’s in the world now. When it’s just you, whatever happens happens but now you pay more attention to political things. You pay more attention to things because your daughter or your son has to deal with these circumstances.

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