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INT: Jamie Foxx


Jamie Foxx is charismatic, humorous and as smooth in person as he is on camera. Not to mention, an incredibly successful and talented actor. Having gained notoriety for his multiple award winning performance in RAY, in his upcoming film DREAMGIRLS, he takes on the role of Curtis, a dubious, ambitious, greedy, business savvy Motown mogul.

In a time of a segregated world at the brink of the Civil Rights movement, Curtis relentlessly pursues his dream of breaking into the music business at any cost! He has an aptitude and rare gift for recognizing potential talent, thus generating insurmountable success with his conceptions. His great vision and flair help create the new singing trio, the Dreams. However, being enraptured by the beautiful yet low profile Deena, he is oblivious to everyone else's needs and desires. Despite his obsession, he is solely responsible for putting R & B on the map and breaking through an otherwise impossible mainstream America . His vision proves to be lucrative but he is ultimately responsible for everyone's heartbreak. The journey to success is a painful lesson learnt by all.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jamie Foxx last week when he sat down to share his experience in the music business and taking on the dazzling role of Curtis in the upcoming musical film, DREAMGIRLS. Check out what he had to say.

Jamie Foxx

So is it okay to mention Barry Gordy's name in connection with you?

You know what? Barry Gordy is actually not this character. This character that I'm playing is all of these record guys that I met while I was doing my album. And they were just ruthless. They were just saying some crazy stuff. I'll never forget this one guy who said, "I want to let you know, I don't care if you sell one record or a million records, my check stays the same." And he just walked out. Damn, well I guess I won't sing the song I had prepared for you then! That's what Curtis is. Curtis is a mix of the music today. Because the music today is more relentless; it's a tough struggle because nobody's selling records. And so the music executive does not have time to befriend you; it's all about the business. 

Tell us about the concert with Fantasia? 

We got a thirty-city tour. December 26th. It's going to be comedy and music. I'm looking forward to it. Because we got lucky--we sold some records, and I got a MySpace account: [email protected]. We've been reaching out and hitting everybody; it looks like it's going to be hot. 

What do you think of Jennifer Hudson? 

Oh, jeeez. You know what's crazy? She knew. She knew the whole time. She faked us all out. I knew she was ready for this, because the first time she did her first line, she did not stumble and she looked me right in the face like, "What are you saying?!" And I said, uh oh. She is getting ready to rip this place apart. And then when she got to that song, they had the camera on me first. And she was singing it off-camera, and they told me, "Be tough, Jamie," and I'm about to cry. I'm like, my goodness. And she just knew. It's so great to see someone get it like that. Because she brought that country thing to it. She's from the South. She brought that thing that makes you move. It was beautiful. 

Did you see the original play? 

No, I was little. I was born in '67. I've got a birthday coming up, too. I'll be 39 in two weeks. I didn't get a chance to see the play, but everybody got moved by that song by Jennifer Holiday. And then when she found out what the play was about…it's just amazing. 

Have you ever met Jennifer Holiday? 

No, I haven't. 

What did you bring from Ray to this? 

I think that RAY allowed DREAMGIRLS to come through. I remember when we did Ray Charles, there were a lot of whispers of, "You know, do we have to say this is an African American film, or should we say this is Americana?" And I said, "No, no, no, we should say black film, and I'll tell you why." If you say black film, it's not about the skin, or African American, it's about the business of black. Meaning if Ray Charles does well financially and critically, if he wants to produce a black film, he can do it, because now there's a benchmark, there's a rating system. So therefore DREAMGIRLS benefits because Ray worked. 

What I always said growing up as a young black kid in Texas: I want things to be like pizza. When you eat a piece of pizza, you don't say, "Oh, this is Italy. This is Italian pizza." You just eat it. And that's what I want my art to be. They get so used to it being good, and so used to it working, that they just say, "This is just like eating a slice of pizza." And that's how I think that Ray Charles pushes DREAMGIRLS.  

Your character had to sell Cadillacs. What are some bad jobs you had before your big break? 

Oh, man. I sold shoes at Tom McCann. Do they even have Tom McCann anymore, those little plastic shoes? I was in Foxhills mall, or whatever. I was so good at it, I could look at people's feet and go: "Eight and a half, baby?" [woman's voice] "Ooh, you're so crazy!" "Six and a half?" [woman's voice] "You're so good!" So I was selling women's shoes. But I got lucky. I started playing the piano at an early age. I started playing the piano for dance classes, modern classes and stuff like that. 

Self taught? 

No, no, I had a teacher, and I went to college on a classical piano scholarship. So when I got to San Diego, there were so many different jobs, especially playing for ballet classes and things. 

But when you hit In Living Color… 

It was crazy. 

So it was always your dream to do music? 

Yeah, I wanted to do music, man. When I got to LA, I was living in a hotel, and I was hanging out in Hollywood. I was like, man, I must be in the wrong area. Because there were all these derelicts, and I was just trying to find my way around. By not having the money to get the thing done--you know, demos or whatever--I just started doing standup, I started doing standup at the comedy club out in LA. And it was a time where you could really become semi-famous in Los Angeles alone.

If I'm doing a joke about Mike Tyson, Mike Tyson could be in the audience. Which is a risk. But at the same time, you had people kind of knowing who you were in Los Angeles. But it was always a struggle to get back to the music. And it wasn't until I met Kanye West when it really jumped off. I threw this party, years ago--before Kanye West was Kanye West--and at the party was Puffy, Jay-Z, and two dudes in the corner...little guys. And they go, "We're the Neptunes." I said, "What's your name?" He said, "Pharrell." I said, "Well come on in the party."

And then some guy walks into the party wearing a backpack, real quiet. He says his name is Kanye West. And I heard him rap, and I said, "Dude, you're incredible." And I built a studio in my house. And I built a studio in my house. I said, "Listen, if you ever want to do a record, you don't have to pay any money. I went to all the studios, and got the hook-ups so you can cut a record right here." And we actually cut slow jams right there. And then Ray came out, and then Golddigger. And that was the surefire way for me to get back to the music business. That's how it came about.  

So you helped him produce Jesus Walks? 

He didn't do Jesus Walks at my place. We did Golddigger and Slow Jams at my spot. But I give an open door policy to all record artists. If you want to do a record for free at my house, you can do it absolutely for free. All you got to do is give me a credit at the end of the album. And they're like, thank you, because it's eating their budget up. 

What do you think about Curtis' business ideas? 

You know what the sad part about it is? Curtis is necessary. Some of them are worse than others, but if you don't have a Curtis… If it was up to me, I'm artistic all day, so I would never get it done. Because I don't have an ability to do business, relentless business. I would be somewhere in the village playing a banjo. Unfortunately, the bad strain in Curtis--and people who are like Curtis--is that they can deliver the dream, but they can't execute. And that's what eats away at him. All the girls are screaming for these artists, but they'll [the Curtises] never be able to sing. If you look in their lives, they've always wanted to be an artist, or wanted to do something artistic, but they can't do it, so they do the business. But if you don’t have the person like Curtis, then you might not have the business. 

You've got a lot of projects coming up as a producer. Are you worried you're pushing yourself into the Curtis-type role? 

Here's the thing. I've got people that do the business part of it, and I'm more there on the creative side. I'm there to protect the creativity of whatever we're producing. And that's a better fix. But you gotta have somebody there that's pressing the gas. But you know what's funny? My friend called from the screening, and he said, "Man, when girls see what Jamie Foxx did in the movie to Beyonce, they're going to slap the shit out of him." [Woman's voice] "You tell Jamie Foxx that was messed up what he did to Beyonce! That's some BULLSHIT!"  But then you run into the executives. And they say, "Jamie, Curtis was great! I don't get it. He was misunderstood. So there is that person out there who looks at that business as art, too. And when you do look at people who have orchestrated a thing like that, there is an art to the business.

Is it hard to stay friends with people in the music industry? 

It's tough to maintain friendships in hip-hop. Because I'll like one rapper, and then I'm hanging out with another rapper. And he's like [whispers] "Yo, I don't like him. I got beef with him." So now you're scared to talk to anybody, because this guy's pitted against that guy. It's a little weird because nobody else does that. You don’t see Johnny Mathis mad at Neil Diamond, saying, "I don't like the chords he sings. This is bullshit!" You don't see Kenny Rogers and Lee Greenwood have beefs. That's the weird thing about it. So I tell these guys, "Look, you're stupid right now. Because if you guys connected, the music would be more enriched. And we're already in a divisive era right now." So I'm the fun dude. I just stay happy and stay cool. 

Favorite albums of the year? 

That Snoop record is hot. That Jay-Z record is hot. That Game record is hot.




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