The Kingdom - Jamie Foxx interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
OSCAR-winning actor Jamie Foxx about the appeal of war against terror thriller The Kingdom, why the film will divide audiences and the type of research he carried out into his FBI character.
He also talks about working with Israeli co-star Ashraf Barhom, mixing his film career with music and forthcoming projects…
What appealed you to most about doing The Kingdom?
Jamie Foxx: Michael Mann and Peter Berg. When I got the script I was so pleased and humbled that they wanted me to be involved with this. I think it’s a beautiful movie… it’s such a touchy subject. It’s about something that’s going on right now but the way they executed the script and the film, I think they really won with it.
Why do you think there are suddenly so many films about the war on terror at the moment? Is the time right?
Jamie Foxx: I think it’s our responsibility as artists to give something and to say something about what’s going on. I believe the first two minutes of this film blows you away. It’s a quick version of why we’re in the Middle East. Everything is about oil, everything is about money, so what does that say? For good Christians and for good Muslims, is there a manipulation? Are we being manipulated into hating each other because all these fat, greedy people are making money while we propaganda each other to death.
Do you think the film has been misinterpreted by some critics in America who have accused it of being very gung-ho and jingoistic in its approach?
Jamie Foxx: I don’t know because that’s what they should say. And do you know why? Because when they see this movie, everyone wants the war to be over. So, that’s what’s coming out. Even in our speeches, even in our work, everybody wants this evil thing to stop. So, when a critic is saying it, he’s not really criticising the movie but he or she is trying to get their point across on the situation.
How much research did you do into the role?
Jamie Foxx: We had the chance to hang out with some FBI guys and get the real nuts and bolts of it – not the superhero side of it. I think what’s great about [my character] Ronald Fleury is having him be this FBI professional guy but still allowing the emotions to leak through. There was one woman, I can’t remember her name, who was talking about what would happen if she got up to do a speech in front of her colleagues and whether she would show any emotion. She told me: “Absolutely not. We do not show emotion because we have a job we have to do.” I thought “wow”. So when I was making my speech in the beginning of the film [after the bomb attack in Saudi Arabia] I had to keep that in mind but show just a little crack in my make-up, to let them know that things had become personal.
It’s also quite a physical role, so how did you enjoy the training?
Jamie Foxx: It’s great. You get a chance to shoot guns and it’s a lot of fun going back to the cowboys and Indians scenarios back in the day. I’d already done so much weapons training on Miami Vice – it was crazy! We didn’t get a chance to shoot a lot of them in the movie but we shot a lot of guns before we actually started the movie. But it really helped. It enables you to go to a place where it appears like second nature when you’re picking up a gun.
How did it differ from the training you did on Miami Vice?
Jamie Foxx: It differed in the fact that you had to be a real person. In Miami Vice, they were fictional characters but these FBI guys really exist. So even in the way we walked, or in the way we folded our arms and looked at things had to really be authentic.
How did you enjoy working with Ashraf Barhom?
Jamie Foxx: Ashraf was incredible. We started on the opposite ends of each other, rather like our characters. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me. So, we were figuring out: “Who is that guy? What is he about?” You can see that actually work in the movie – and then we have that ride in that truck which ties everything up about our characters and what they have in common. [Mimics Ashraf]: “Because of the green beast…” “What green beast?” [Mimics Ashraf]: “The Incredible Hulk…” To see that real human nature and bonding come out of all this craziness that’s going on is incredible. He just breaks your heart in the film. The dude is on his way…
The last line in the film is also quite sobering. Was that one of the things that appealed to you most when you read the script?
Jamie Foxx: To be honest, Peter Berg just came up with it. He said: “I know I’m going to find it somewhere.” I think he really went somewhere in his head before he got it. That’s what great artists do. So, when he put it in there it was beautiful.
Did you travel to Abu Dhabi to film any scenes when the production went? And did it help with getting a feel for how you have to conduct yourself in an Arab culture?
Jamie Foxx: Oh yeah, it was beautiful. I was a tourist. And yes, there are certain things you have to respect about the culture, which is great. I had no problem with that. But keeping that in mind, they also let us have as much fun as we could possibly have and they showed us a great time.
Your career has been phenomenal in the years since you won the Oscar, both film-wise and music-wise. How do you go about juggling them both?
Jamie Foxx: I think what you do when you get up and go to a job, you have to find something during that day, during that 9 to 5, that you think is going to be exciting and that people are going to like. That’s the challenge of it, that’s the challenge of hanging out with your friends – whether it’s comedians or other singers – and saying: “What can we do? What can we do to make them go, ‘mmmm’!” I feel like we’re just starting out a little bit but you let people share it. My family shares in every success that I have and they share in the creative process. I run it by them. And then you just keep going…
When can we expect the next album from you?
Jamie Foxx: The next album is 2008. I’m going to come to London and do some things live. I want to get that vibe, I want to get here and have a band and create some things. I want to do some international stuff so the album can be more rounded. It’s tough in the music business but in 2008 I think I’ll venture out and try to get it right.
And prior to that you’re working with [director] Joe Wright on The Soloist [based on the true story of musical prodigy Nathaniel Ayers]?
Jamie Foxx: Yeah and he’s an absolutely wonderful man. He was the youngest guy to open the film festival in Venice with Atonement. He makes movie making worth doing. There’s a lot of popcorn and a lot of fluff out there, so to be able to get with someone who’s passionate, who’s a poet, is beautiful.