Jamie just had to be Django
Jamie Foxx is in high spirits in a hotel in the Mexican holiday resort of Cancun, all the more impressive since he played an impromptu DJ set in the wee small hours the night before. He’s here with fellow actors Christoph Waltz and Kerry Washington and cult director QuentinTarantinototalkabout Tarantino’s latest epic, Django Unchained, whichthey’ve been filming in New Orleans.
Foxx is the epitome of cool, managingtohandletwocareers as a stellar actor in films like Collateral andRay( for whichhe wonanOscar), andasaGrammy award- winning singer.
But he still seems completely humbledthatTarantino would have picked him to play the lead.
“I had seen Quentin at a lot of parties, but I was just honoured to be, you know, considered for the role,” he says.
Foxx plays the Django of the title, a slave bought by German dentist- turned- bounty hunter Dr King Schultz, played by Waltz, whoworkedwithTarantino on his previous movie Inglourious Basterds.
Schultzwantshelpcatching notorious criminals the Brittle brothers and agrees to free Django once they’re dead - and help him find his wife Broomhilda, whowassoldtoevil plantation owner Calvin Candie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
In typical Tarantino style, Django Unchained is genrebusting - part slave narrative, part spaghetti western and revenge romp, with a dash of love story. Tarantino dreamt it up while in Japan promoting Inglourious Basterds.
Thefilmhasdeservedlyjust received Oscar nominations for best picture, best original screenplay and best supporting actor for Waltz, but Foxx and Tarantino have missed out on nods for best actor and best director.
Foxx is gracious in the face of what could be considered a snub by the Academy, saying: “I don’t do what I do for awards, I’m just happy to be Django. I think that’s the most iconic thing. All I ever wanted to get out of this was to be Django.”
Unliketraditionalwesterns, it’s set in the south, two years before the Civil War, when the Constitution at the time said slaveswereonlythree- fifthshuman. Cue some classic Tarantino violence andcontroversial use of the N- word.
For Foxx, far from being put off by the subject matter, it touched a nerve, reminding him of growing up in Texas.
“It was the most incredible script I’ve read in all my life. I thought, ‘ Who has the guts to tell it like it really is?’ The way he’s telling thestory, it rips your flesh off.”
At his first meetingwiththe director, the 45- year- old felt compelled to share his experience of racism.
“When I met with Quentin, first thing I told him was about my experience, because this movie is a western but it also deals with slavery. And so I explained to him about these things that are in the script.
“As a kid growing up in Texas, there were some things where, you know, the racial component was definitely elevated. So I told him those experiences are going to come out whenwestartshootingthis movie.”
One other strong parallel that made him a perfect candidate for the part was that he’d recently started horse- riding.
Foxx explains: “About fourand- a- half years ago, I got a horseformybirthdayandstarted riding.
“And the next thing you know, I run into this cinematic genius, as I call him, Quentin Tarantino. He says he has a western and I said, ‘ Well I happentohavemyownhorse’. Now myhorse Cheetah is actually in the movie!”
In Tarantino’s eyes, Foxx had a “cowboy quality to him - looks good on a horse and good in the outfit”.
When the actor’s sister came on set, he got a further seal of approval.
“She’s from South Dallas, from the ‘ hood, you know, and forpeoplewherewecomefrom, you never really get a chance to see the black cowboy,” says Foxx.
“When we actually got in the western gear, cowboy hats andguns, andwerodeuponthe horses, I lookedatmysisterand her eyes welled up, like, ‘ Wow, you’re a real cowboy’.”
Working for Tarantino means you’re never quite sure what you’re going to be doing and one scene sees Foxx hanging upside down fully naked.
But for all the hard - and sometimes painful - graft, the director rewards his cast.
“I’ve never been on a set where it’s been that much fun,” says Foxx, grinning.
“Heplays music in between takes. Every hundred rolls of film we take shots, either tequila, or the last thing we had was Mint Julep. Working on something like this, you need that release.
“And he’s g r aci ous. I watched him when we were on thechaingangandwe’relocked in these chains, it’s 28 degrees, but he went to every person, every guy that was on the chain gang, whether he had a line or whether he was in the background, and made sure they were OK.
“Those types of things, whenyouworkinourbusiness, are huge and it makesthe process enjoyable.”
Astrongmutualrespectalso developed between Foxx and his co- star Waltz, partly based on bonding over their Oscar wins - Foxx for his portrayal of blind pianist Ray Charles and Waltz won best supporting actor for his role as HansLandain Inglourious Basterds.
“He was such the underdog and now he’s in this position where he wins an Oscar, so the firstthingIaskedhimwas‘ How does it feel?’
“Tosit there andbothhavea shared experience already creates a bond.
“We hugged each other and said, ‘ Hey man, this is going to be a journey’, and it’s just been fantastic.” For Waltz, Foxx is simply “the real cool”.
Foxx is not married and recently admitted in a TV interview with Oprah: “I don’t know if I’m built for marriage”, although he added: “I’m a very loving person, when it comes to connecting with somebody.”
He has two daughters from previousrelationshipsandtook them on the plantation set of DjangoUnchainedsotheycould see the slave quarters.
“You can’t walk through those places and not feel something,” he says.
“I tookmythree- and- a- halfyear- old andmyeighteen- yearold and let them walk through. I said, ‘ This is where you come from’.”
Jamie Foxx plays the title role in Django Unchained, the latest offering by Quentin Tarantino