It's easy to forget that before he played won an Oscar playing Ray Charles in "Ray," Jamie Foxx was best known for his stint on "In Living Color" and for movies like "Booty Call." But these days he's a legitimate leading man, and has earned his place as the titular lead in Quentin Tarantino's new movie "Django Unchained." Foxx plays a former slave turned bounty hunter who strives to free his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington, his "Ray" co-star) from the clutches of evil plantation owner Calvin Candy (Leonardo DiCaprio). The movie is slated to come out on Christmas, and Foxx spoke with journalists about the film and working with Tarantino at this year's Comic-Con.
Upcoming-Movies.com: What was your toughest day on set?
Jamie Foxx: Oh, a lot of tough days. A lot of tough days. To watch men is one thing, something happening to men is one thing, but to watch Kerry Washington. There was a situation where, when the scene came, we've all sort of known the scene, about in slavery you always think of the whip and someone being whipped, but for Kerry to be whipped was tough. The most courageous person in this movie was Kerry Washington. She said I want to be hit with the lashes.
We were actually at the plantation in New Orleans. This was a real plantation; these are the grounds where our ancestors really walked. Quentin does a fantastic thing where he would play music in between scenes, and that day I went to the music guy and said, listen I've got three songs I want you to play. He set the speakers up throughout the--imagine this whole thing is shack row, this whole big area and there's big speakers in every corner. They shoot my point of view first, so Kerry is actually to my right waiting for her scene and the amount of emotions that I was feeling was just--I couldn't hold it.
When she actually began the whipping scene, there was a song by Fred Hammond, who is a religious gospel singer, and the song was (sings) "no weapons formed against me shall prosper," and when that would play throughout the whole shack village, I saw one of the extras who had a little kid, I saw her hands go up and she started like, you know, I guess you would call it testifying or really feeling the Holy Ghost and I watched Quentin who is a super director and who is super, you know, 'We're going to get this shot done,' I see him do this, and water had filled up in his eye piece because he was crying. And that was probably the most challenging time, but a testament to Quentin Tarantino and his ability to understand the situation. He went to every single person on that set whether they were extras or main characters and made sure they were okay between each scene. I think that's what made it tough but, he'd crack a joke, he'd play some good music and get your mind off things, you know. That was one of the toughest things to watch that and to watch how she embodied it. I will guarantee you when you see it on film; it just takes you to another place.
And you say they used a real whip on her?
Jamie Foxx: They use a real whip on her. It was sort of the nylon version but she wanted to feel it, which was like, you know, that's courageous man. I would have been like, 'hey man, could you all get me a stunt back? Just go get me a whole different back. You know what I'm saying?' Because I ain't with it, you know. But, it was crazy.
What was the most fun about playing Django?
Jamie Foxx: The most fun about it was being a cowboy and I was riding my own horse. When I met with Quentin, I mean to be honest with you, I wanted to play the part and I said listen, 'I'm going to put my bid in like nobody else. I know you need somebody to ride a horse. I got a horse about five years ago, I've got a couple of horses, you know.' And he said, 'Well if I choose you, can you ride?' And I said, 'Let me ride my own horse. Let me ride my own horse and see if she can handle the stunts. The next thing you know, she's able to handle the stunts and everything like that, so I get a chance to play a cowboy, spin guns like I used to spin plastic guns, I'm doing that.
I get the green jacket from "Bonanza," which being a kid from Texas, that's all we watched was Westerns. And the green jacket from "Bonanza?" Are you kidding me? With the mole skin pants that are hugging you.
So, it was amazing and my horse and I had basically the same arc. Me starting off as this troubled Number Six slave in the chain gang and she was a little nervous when we pulled up to the silks. She would spook, like bad. And then the handler would grab the reins and I'd say, 'Do me a favor and let go of the rein and just let her find her bearings.' So first she was spooked, now we make sure everyone's out of the way and I ride her until she's settled and so as Django settled, so did Cheetah – her name's Cheetah – Cheetah settled.
At the end of the movie, she was so comfortable with doing stunts where she had to do the spin, I "click click," and she does three turns and stops on a dime, throws her feet like this. I say, 'Oh she's cheesing now. She really is trying to get on a magazine right now.' That was the fun thing.
And another fun thing was the crew. Quentin had a thing about, he says, 'Guys we got that take, we can stop but we're going to do another one, do you know why?' And everyone would go, 'Because we love making movies!' Whenever you got tired they would do that and so to do a movie like this, with this type of heavy material and have someone like that who was really keeping you from, you know, going too far under.
Kerry Washington said that this was a collaborative project. Did you find that to be the case, too?
Jamie Foxx: I found it was everything. I found that Quentin Tarantino will use everything, every inspiration, to get his movie in the right place. What was amazing was he allowed characters to really grow and develop and sit back and watch where they would go. I think watching Leonardo DeCaprio and Quentin work was one of the most amazing things because here comes Lenoardo DeCaprio, the good looking guy who you've been seeing on the tabloids with the models and he comes in so different and ready to work.
To see those guys get in the corner and develop the character and watch the character go different ways. And once he [Tarantino] saw that it would go a different way he'd go a different way -- 'Now I've got to change this over here in Django's character, and now I've got to change this with Kerry's character, I've got to change this with Samuel L's character.' So he was open to things he had. Of course, the script was already amazing, but then he would just on a dime. I don't know if he wants us to speak about it, but on a dime sometimes he would just change and it would be fantastic. And I'd say, 'Can I bring some of my friends down here to watch you work?' At one point, he just rewrote a whole scene and he says, 'No, that doesn't work.' The next day he goes to lunch and comes back with four pages of perfect dialog and says, 'Let's do this, this is good.' The next thing you know we shoot it and his team was on point too, because they know how he works, it was just amazing.
And every little question, if we did something and had to stop. Samuel L Jackson had a situation where I shot six people and now I'm supposed to shoot Samuel Jackson and Samuel goes, 'eh eh eh, he shot six bullets.' And Quentin goes, 'I got that, I got that, I got that -- okay, so what's going to happen right here, Samuel you're going to go, "I counted six bullets, motherfucker," and then Django's going to pull out another gun and say, "I count two guns motherfucker." On the spot, goes in the movie, it'll be a classic line.
When Tarantino announces a project, there's this extreme level of interest in the script. How much of this do you think we've seen and how much more does he have up his sleeve?
Jamie Foxx: You know, I don't have anything to do with it, but I know one thing, Quentin Tarantino, he thinks to me, like – I know this is going to sound weird – but he thinks like a hip-hop artist. Hip-hop artists drop a single, drop something on the internet, leak something over here because he knows it's hot, so he knows whatever it is it's hot. He knew today that when he showed you that footage and he knows his audience, he tapped me on the leg and says, 'When you were at BET last week, that show, I know that's your forte, watch me in this.' What he doesn't know is BET is his forte too because black folk like Tarantino all the way. He knew that these are his fans. So, he's hip-hop. That's the way I explain him. I think my thing is always letting him know, you're hip-hop man, and like right now, the music world is on fire trying to be the first to be in a Quentin Tarantino film, because he usually doesn't do scores. I hope I'm not letting the cat out of the bag, but John Legend did a song and put it on cassette and sent it to Quentin because he knows he doesn't like, you know, technology. He puts it on a cassette. He says, 'I got this song I want you to hear.' I said, 'Let me hear it, let me break out my CD.' He pulled out the little, you remember the directorial cassette tape? Let me rewind it, and he plays it, and it's a fantastic song. That's his thing. He knows.