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“I got a chance to ride my own horse in the movie, so that was cool.”
While at Comic-Con for a presentation, actor Jamie Foxx talked about his role in the upcoming Quentin Tarantino Western, Django Unchained, about a slave-turned-bounty hunter who’s out to save his wife. During our interview, he talked about the toughest scene to shoot, the musical quality of Tarantino’s dialogue, the fact that the writer/director rewrote the ending while in his trailer, how he would like to do a song for the soundtrack, what it was like to have Franco Nero from the original Django on set, what Westerns mean to him, working with Kerry Washington again, and how he feels this will be one of the films that changes his career.
Question: What was the toughest scene to shoot, in this film?
JAMIE FOXX: The most courageous person in this movie is Kerry Washington. We’re all guys. If you do something bad to guys, that’s to be expected. But, when Kerry had to take lashes, that was the toughest scene. But, Quentin Tarantino would play music in between takes, so when they were giving her lashes, I asked if we could play this song by gospel singer Fred Hammond, called “No Weapon.” While they were doing that, it was in shack row and they were about to give her lashes, and they had speakers set up throughout the whole place with that song playing. There was one black lady who was an extra from New Orleans, who had never been on a set before, but she know that song. Her hands went up and she was rocking back and forth with the child she was standing with. I saw Quentin shooting and water had filled up in his eye piece because he was touched. It was an amazing thing. When you see it on the screen, you’ll feel it.
Do you see a musical quality to the way that Quentin Tarantino writes dialogue, and to the way that you speak it?
FOXX: Quentin Tarantino is a hip-hop artist. I told him, “You’re hip-hop!” You keep seeing surprises, and a clip here and there, because Quentin is hip-hop. A hip-hop artist will drop a single, leak something over here, and drop something over there ‘cause he knows it’s hot. He’s on the spot with the way he does things. The way his dialogue is, it is a musical. On the spur of the moment, he rewrote the end of the film. He blew up the house and said, “My ending doesn’t work.” We were like, “What do you wanna do?” He said, “Give me a second,” and he was walking on the rubble, and then said, “Okay, I’ve got it!” He went to his trailer, and then came back with the end of the movie. It was dope! Nobody does that. When a writer writes a movie, he goes and gets a cabin and is there for nine months, and then comes down with the tablets. This dude just went in his trailer [and did it]. That’s the difference. He has a musical quality where he’s riffing, but he’s riffing as a genius would, like Mozart.
How much better was the second ending than the first one?
FOXX: I don’t want to cuss, but damn, it was crazy! I was like, “There’s no way!” There are talented people and god-gifted people, and he’s a god-gifted person. You could tell that it was troubling him. When he came back [out of his trailer], he was like, “I’ve got this motherfucker now!” It was just amazing! You’ll see it in the movie. I don’t want to give it away. But, the end is classic. It ends up with myself and Samuel L. Jackson, at the very end of the movie. I even had mentioned to Quentin that Samuel Jackson was housing the part. People wouldn’t go to sleep at night because they knew they had to act against Samuel Jackson, the next morning. He was kicking everybody’s ass, in the scene. So, he made the ending appropriate.
Will you do a song for the soundtrack?
FOXX: I already wrote something. I know that John Legend has a track to Quentin Tarantino that’s amazing. He sent it to Quentin on a cassette tape because he knows that Quentin doesn’t like technology. And then, I ran into Rick Ross and told him that he had to come by the set. Quentin doesn’t do original stuff, but I didn’t think it would hurt for him to come and feel it. Django is hip-hop. This is a different thing. So, Rick Ross showed up. He’s a huge fan of Quentin. I said, “Rick, if you’re gonna write a song for it, I think you should say these words: I need a hundred black coffins for a hundred bad men, dig a hundred black graves so I can lay they ass in.” That would be my contribution. What he does with it, I don’t know. But, if he does what I think he’s gonna do, it will be crazy.
Quentin Tarantino is a very referential director, with the movies he loves. Were there any movies, in particular, that he had you watch before doing this role?
FOXX: Yeah, the original Django that Franco Nero was in. I was just like, “Wow!” It was amazing! And then, to actually have the original Django in the movie was great. He was the biggest star on the set. For him to give his blessing was amazing. I think he really felt it was true to it. I think the pleasant surprise for people is going to be that it’s a Western, and it stays along the lines of a Western that happens to have the backdrop of slavery. Slavery almost becomes secondary, at a certain point. At the beginning, it’s a traditional slave movie. And then, once he becomes a bounty hunter, that’s the backdrop. Then it’s about revenge and getting his girl. He stayed true to that. That’s his cinematic genius.
Do Westerns mean anything to you?
FOXX: Yeah, I’m from Texas! Being from Texas, when he said that I was going to wear the green jacket, I was like, “I’m going to wear the green jacket from Bonanza?!” He was like, “Yeah!,” and I said, “Oh, man!” As a kid, whether you were black or white or Hispanic, everybody watched Hee-Haw and Bonanza, and everybody twirled little plastic guns. In my home, the Brown family actually had a rodeo. We had horses. We didn’t do bull riding, but we did tricks and stuff like that. It was real cool! Also, I got a chance to ride my own horse in the movie, so that was cool.
What was it like to work with Kerry Washington again?
FOXX: Kerry is not a daffodil. She’s not weak. She was in there with the big boys, giving a performance that, to me, really makes the movie move. If the movie was just simply about revenge, then you’d tire of it. But, the fact that this man just wants his wife, and the way she holds on for him, is just amazing.
You were really able to reinvent yourself when you started doing dramatic movies. Is Django Unchained another reinvention for you?
FOXX: All I can say is thank you to Quentin Tarantino. I told him that, if he gets married, I’ll sing at the wedding. I’ll DJ his bedroom, if I need to. I’ll be like, “What y’all wanna hear?” In this business, it really does come down to moments like this that change your career. I don’t know what I would do, if I wasn’t in this movie. I think this movie is one of the ones that will really change the trajectory of where I was going. That’s thanks to him.
© IFA-Amsterdam 2013.
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