Jamie Foxx: “I’m the luckiest man in the world”

The always ebullient Jamie Foxx is starring in what may be the most important movie of his life, in Quentin Tarantino’s new film, Django Unchained. The 44 year old Texan has a Grammy Award, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and an Oscar for his performance in Ray.

Charming and funny, this afternoon he talks about his beloved horse, who also stars in the movie with him, and offscreen he takes care of his avocado ranch.

Q: Apparently you used your own horse in the movie?

Cheetah. She’s great.

Q: Was she confused that she was playing a different name in the movie?

No, they are not like us. (laughs). Horses are more about feel and touch, pushing and moving, that type.

Q: Does she know a trick?

No. The horse wranglers are amazing. As a matter of fact, they bought a horse from Mexico that does a trick where it falls down to the ground. It was a wild horse before we started shooting, and they trained it, calm, it knows how to fall, so they’ve done a great job.

Q: Weren’t you afraid your horse would get injured during the shoot?

When we first started shooting, she was afraid because they put up something that like, a big windscreen, and then finally, she settled down, it’s been cool.

Q: Where do you keep her, in Texas?

No, in LA, Westlake. I live about an hour away. I have an avocado ranch, so yeah, it’s crazy, right? Like everybody has a big avocado ranch and everybody has horses in the neighbourhood. We all arrive, you can take your horse and I’m the poorest person in my neighbourhood, (laughter) everybody else, they have so much money. This one guy said, ‘Hey, I’m cutting a trail.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘I’m cutting a trail from my house to the beach. It has to happen.’ I was like, ‘You’ve got that kind of money?’ He goes, ‘Oh money is nothing!’ So he cuts a trail to the beach, so now we can get on our horses and ride there. So it’s crazy.

Q: So you must be very good at making and eating guacamole?

Guacamole, yeah, I got it down. And the avocados, it’s amazing to see. Like, I got 800 trees, it’s crazy.

Q: So how is your relationship with Christoph Waltz? It seems to be really intense.

He’s such a gentle guy. And you know me, I’m so…. when I asked him about the Oscars, I was like, ‘What did you do, man? Did you go buy something? Did you go to the parties?’ (laughs) But he’s so eloquent, and it really works for his character, because he’s such a gentleman. And the way he’s dressed, I was like before we started shooting every day, ‘Whoo, look at that!’ (laughter) I said, ‘You’ve got to do GQ.’ (laughter) And so he did it. But wait till you see the clothes that he has, the frocks and hat. It’s really dope. But it works for his character because he’s such a gentleman but when he’s violent, that contrast, it’s amazing.

Q: How important is it to do a film like this at this point in your career?

I’m the luckiest man in the world. When they were talking about Will Smith not doing it, I talked to Will and I was like, ‘Thank you, (laughter) thank you for giving me this because you got it all!’

Q: But you’ve got it on your own.

Yeah but at the same time, it was the process. You never know with the movie process in Hollywood and this is something to be thankful for, because you drown in Hollywood in the box office or the fluff but when you get a chance to do real cinema, it never goes away. So, five, ten, twenty years from now, you will be able to turn this movie on and watch it. That’s the one thing that I appreciate, and I appreciate the opportunity.

Q: Why did Will Smith turn it down?

I don’t think that he turned it down, I just think that they were working on some different things. I think he was scheduled or something. But, he’s a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino, and like I said, sometimes things just work that way. And for me to have the dialogue with Will, and because of Will is the reason I have a career in movies, because when we were doing Ali, he told Michael Mann, “I’ve got to have that guy.” And Michael Mann was like, ‘I don’t know who that guy is,’ he says, ‘I’ve got to have that guy.’ He stuck up for me. So this in a way is another way of him giving me an opportunity in a sense.

Q: So do you work on your farm or your plantation and is that how you keep in shape?

No, for this. I got with this group of people called Dot Fit, and if you get a chance you can go up on the internet and check it out. It’s a new way of training, where they ask you, what do you like to eat, and I tell them. They put it in your diet and it’s a caloric count. Like, it counts your calories. So if I burn 3,000 calories, I can eat 2,300 calories. And I won’t gain, and within those 2,300, I can eat cake if I want to, I can eat whatever I want. So I just don’t go over that. And then the workout routine. And as a slave, they didn’t have 24 hour Fitness gyms, they didn’t have workout facilities, so let’s do the type of motions, like chopping something, picking up something to get the authentic shape. So, that’s how.

Q: Do you remember the first time when you had the notion that Quentin was writing a western with an African American in it?

I didn’t find out about it till until it was actually on the internet and it said Will Smith to be slated to do Django. And I was like, ‘Oh wow.’ I didn’t hear about it, but I also got a new management company, and they were more apt about, they knew what it was about.

Q: Of course you were interested in it.

Yeah man, really.

Q: What was the process when you went over to Quentin’s house for that initial meeting? Did you actually read scenes? How did that process happen?

It was interesting. We just talked. I told him about my experiences. First, I said that me coming from Texas, everything was a little racially charged. Me playing the piano at all the Christmas parties in the big white neighbourhood, and I was furniture. Meaning that the people that were doing jokes about blacks, so I was giving him sort of the layout of my life. That was the reason I’m able to say these words, and know who this character is when it comes to the racially charged stuff. Then we kicked it. We had a good time, we talked, we talked about other stuff, I already knew one of the speeches in the movie so I let him know that I knew that, and it was more on that. I said, ‘If I am chosen, hopefully you will feel comfortable in the fact that I’m able to articulate the film also.’ Because with a film like this, there’s going to be panels, there’s going to be questions, there’s going to be people asking why this and why that, and I’ll be able to articulate that. And if you noticed, Quentin is eloquent, Christoph is eloquent, Kerry (Washington) is eloquent. And so, we need that for this type of film, to be able to make people understand certain things that they didn’t look at.

Q: What are the things that you think people are going to make an assumption about?

A Western set inside a slavery? You know what I’m saying? But yet he loves his girl, the subject matter, the words, most slave movies are about the white character coming and taking care of the slaves. This is like where they help each other, most slave movies, a slave, it’s like ‘I should kill you but I won’t,’ and ‘God wouldn’t like that,’ or whatever. While this one is like, ‘I’m going to kill you.’ This is Quentin Tarantino, I’m going to kill you in front of everybody, so it’s a lot.

Q: At some point in the plot, you have to disguise yourself as a slave trader, so how hard was that?

It was tough. It was tough, but l learned from a marine, the guy friend of mine who was a marine. He was a black Marine, African-American marine, but most marines are all white. I said, ‘How is it, you being a Staff Sergeant?’ He said, ‘I had to be tougher. And I had to be more in step. And if I had other black guys that were trying to be a marine, I had to be tougher on them.’ So I took a little bit of that, so in the scene even when they turned the cameras off, I was giving it to those guys.

Q: Do you think in the last decade there was a shift or an evolution on how people perceive African-Americans in film? Because for instance, when Denzel and Halle won the Oscar in 2004, everyone made a big fuss out of that and after that, you won and Morgan Freeman won and Forrest Whitaker won, and it was okay. Nobody said anything, as it should be.

Well someone has to open that door, and once they open that door, once you make those breakthroughs, then it does it. I call it “eating pizza.” When you eat a pizza, do you say, ‘Wow, this is from Italy?’ Or do you just eat the pizza? So I wanted to be where you were just eating a pizza, where if a black person is nominated, or a Hispanic person is nominated, or whatever it is, it’s just eating pizza. If we can get to that, then we are good. And hopefully someone doesn’t make something out of the pizza, well, why does it have to be Italian? Why couldn’t it be, (laughter) so if we could get to that, we are good.

Q: Is there any talk of you contributing songs to the soundtrack?

No, I probably won’t do that, but I know there are some talks of some guys that are going to I think step in and really make it wonderful.

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