JAMIE FOXX on 'THE KINGDOM' Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
August 24, 2007
In the action thriller The Kingdom, two cultures come together in an uneasy alliance to investigate a terrorist attack with far-reaching political implications. When a brutal slaying cuts through the inhabitants of a Western housing compound in Saudi Arabia, an elite team of FBI agents (Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, and Jason Bateman) is dispatched to track down those who are behind the slaughter. But upon their arrival, they are met with opposition by most of the local authorities, with the exception of a Saudi colonel (Ashraf Barhom) who finds common ground with the Americans on issues of justice and duty.
In this interview, Jamie Foxx talks about working on the project and experiencing Abu Dhabi. Additionally, he also talks about getting back to performing live comedy.
MEDIA: What kind of preparation did you do for this role, especially in terms of striking the right balance between drama and light comedy?
JAMIE: First of all, we got a chance to go where the federal agents train for this, and they show you bombs. That was what was crazy, like seeing them blow stuff up in front of you. And to see how their approach was, as opposed to mine. Because I was like, "Oh my God, what are they going to do?" And 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 gotta get up, go to work. This may happen, this may not happen." And so that was the reason for putting some of the jokes in there and making it light. Because that's the way these guys are. And then it was just painting the picture.
This movie features some great action. How dangerous were the more physical sequences?
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 blacktop, so you had to pay attention to yourself. That's why I think that Jennifer Garner is the strongest person in the world--after having a child and getting back in shape and then being out in those conditions and handling it. The other danger was--that we had to pay attention to--there was a lot of guns going off simultaneously, so you had to make sure that you weren't in anybody's path. Because even though they were blanks, it could still cause damage. And then the physicality of going through those hallways, blowing up stuff...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." So although it was taxing, it was still fun.
Did you do your own stunts?
I did all of my [stunts]. [pauses] I'm lying. I didn't do all the stunts. I was probably the worst. [snaps fingers, says in a prissy diva voice] "Could you get in there?" [laughs] 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 that they want to show. And so hats off to those guys that were showing you new moves, trying to show you a different thing, because you've seen probably every stunt in the world. I mean, you guys have seen every movie. But to see them put their thing on is fabulous.
You also filmed some scenes in Abu Dhabi. How was that experience?
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, and 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 makes the food court here look crazy. It was different worlds. They pick you up in the Phantom Rolls Royce. It was like shooting a music video the whole time. You're riding a Mercedes and there was guns...
Did you have any specific scenes that were your favorites?
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. Anytime it's action, I dig that.
In both The Kingdom and Jarhead, you play an African American in a position of military leadership. Is that a role that has required any particularly special research on your part?
Yes, most definitely. I mean, whenever you do a piece, you always ask, "Is there anyone who's African American who's doing this job?" Even when we were doing the Marines, they had me meet with Marines that were Caucasian. And I went out on my own and found a brother who was in the Marines...And with the black folks that were in the Marines, 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 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 ourself 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, "Okay, you gotta work a little harder because you have to make sure that 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.
You've been in several ensemble films. Do you prefer that format over being a single lead?
I think what's best for me right now is having that ensemble, because until you graduate to your Will Smithness, it's good to have people around. Yeah, you gotta graduate to that--that's that big boots up in there. But I like having it that way because I'm used to sort of playing with the ensemble. In Living Color days, it was ensemble. Even when you work with someone like Will Smith...You know, I was able to kind of like fit in somewhere, and so I like that comfortable spot to where you're not having to put everything on your shoulders. I mean, you're working with people like Chris Cooper, you're working with Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman. So you know that you're in good company.
Your co-star Ashraf Barhom said that he didn't know who you or Jennifer Garner were...
[says jokingly] He's lying. He's lying. He knew me. He asked me for my autograph, the whole nine...He was taking pictures and all kinds of stuff. I was signing his chest. The whole nine. Don't let him lie to you. He was marveling!
You've been getting back into live comedy. How has that been going, and how has delving back into that world re-energized your passion for performing live?
It helped me get it out, because we write ten jokes a day. I hang out with nothing but comedians, and so we sit and we write all these jokes. And they wanted me to go out and do a music tour, and they wanted me to sing first. But the album wasn't hot anymore. It was like, 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 the 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 that have been coming to see you perform for years got a chance [to see] "Oh, he ain't changed!" I mean, 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 on the stage, "Holla at me, Foxx!" You know, they don't want you coming up in there, [says in a "stuffy white guy" voice] "Oh, I won the Oscar..." They don't want to hear all that. And most of them don't even know. "But man, I love that Grammy you got! Talk about the Grammy, Foxx!" So, you know, it was a chance for me to really get back. I don't ever want to get behind those gates and the dogs and whatever it is, and then kind of lose that thing, you know?
And you're also doing comedy on satellite radio, yes?
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 Foxxhole. And we give it to you good over there. And don't write in because it gets bad sometimes.
Totally random question: what's perfect happiness for you?
The pool is about 92 degrees, the Jacuzzi is about 102. And an avocado farm.