Jamie Foxx stars as a slave named Django acquired by Dr. King Schultz (played by Christoph Waltz) in order to help him track down murderers in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. Schultz promises Django his freedom in exchange for helping him capture the Brittle brothers, but what Django's focused on is finding his wife (played by Kerry Washington) who was lost to the slave trade years before.
After participating in a panel for fans at the 2012 San Diego Comic Con, Foxx sat down with us to talk about working with Quentin Tarantino and the appeal of being a part of a Western.
Jamie Foxx Django Unchained Interview
Were you serenading the other table of journalists?
"Man, we had to get it in over there. We had a little concert going down. I was actually talking about, they asked what was the toughest scene to shoot. And the toughest scene, the most courageous person in this movie is Kerry Washington because we’re all guys. If you do something bad to guys, that’s sort of to be expected. But when Kerry had to take lashes, that was the toughest scene. But Quentin Tarantino would play music in between takes. I asked could we play, when they were giving her lashes, there’s a song by Fred Hammond, a gospel singer. The song was [singing], 'No weapons formed against me, shall prosper.' So while they’re doing it, imagine this is a shack row and all the shacks are here and they’re about to give her lashes there. They had speakers set up throughout the whole place. When that song was playing, some of the extras, like there was one black lady as an extra, she’s actually from New Orleans, never been on a set before, but she knows that song so I see her hands go up like this, and I see her rocking back and forth with the child she was standing with. And as you see Quentin Tarantino shooting, you see him do like this [jerk up], because water had filled up in his eyepiece because he was touched. It was some amazing thing - and you’ll see it. When you see it on the screen, you’ll feel it."
Do you see a musical quality to the way Quentin writes dialogue and the way you speak it?
"Quentin Tarantino is a hip hop artist, I told him. I said, 'You’re hip hop and hip hop is like this.' They asked me, 'We keep seeing surprises and we keep seeing a clip here.' I said that’s because Quentin is hip hop. A hip hop artist will drop a single, leak something over here, drop something over there because he knows it’s hot. What he does is, he’s on the spot with the way he does things. The way his dialogue is, it is musical. On the spur of the moment, he rewrote the end of the movie. Blows up the house and says, 'My ending doesn’t work.' We’re like, 'Well, what are you going to do?' He says, 'Give me a second.' He’s walking on the rubble like this [sighing], 'Okay, I got it.' Goes to his trailer, and comes back with the end of the movie, but dope. Like nobody does that. When a writer writes a movie, he goes and gets a cabin and is there for like nine months and comes down with the tablets. This dude just went in his trailer. So that’s the different musical quality of him, of being able to basically, he’s riffing, but he’s riffing as a genius would, like Mozart."
How much better was that second ending?
"I don’t want to cuss, but damn, it was crazy! I said, 'There’s no way, there’s no way. There’s no way.' I said what it is is that there’s talented people and then there’s talented people and God gifted people. He’s a God gifted person, because he went away, he did something, you could tell that it was troubling him, and when he got it he came back like, 'I got this mother***er now.' And it was just amazing. In the end, you’ll see it in the movie, I don’t want to give it away, but it’s classic and it ends up with myself and Samuel Jackson at the very end of the movie. I even mentioned to Quentin, I said, 'The way Samuel L. Jackson was just housing the part...' People wouldn’t go to sleep. I know Kerry will probably tell you, you wouldn’t go to sleep at night because you know you’ve got to act against Samuel Jackson the next morning. And he was kicking everybody’s ass in the scene like this. So he made the ending appropriate."
Do you have an opportunity to sing in the movie?
"No. I sung, but I sung badly - on purpose."
Is that hard to do, like good actors trying to act badly?
"I had to do it but it was only for that much so it was cool. It makes sense in the movie."
Could you possibly do a song for the soundtrack?
"Yes, sir. I wouldn’t do it, but I already wrote [something]. I ran into Rick Ross...and I know that John Legend had sent a track to Quentin Tarantino that’s amazing, and he sent it to Quentin on a cassette tape because he knows Quentin doesn’t like technology. Then, I ran into Rick Ross. I said, 'Rick, you should come by the set because I know Quentin doesn’t do original stuff, but it wouldn’t hurt for you to come and just feel it because Django is hip hop. This is a different thing.' So Rick Ross shows up, huge fan of Quentin and I said, 'Rick, if you’re going to write a song, I think you should say these words: I need 100 black coffins for 100 bad men, dig 100 black graves so I can lay they ass in. 100 black coffins.' So that would be my contribution. Now what he does with it, I don't know. But if he does what I think, it’s going be it’ll be great."
Did Quentin give you any reference movies to prepare for this?
"Yes, the original Django, one of the originals Franco Nero was in. I was like, 'Wow,' it was amazing. And then to actually have the original Django in the movie. I don't know if you’ve ever met him but he was the biggest star on the set. For him to give his blessing, and I think it really follows true to it and I think that’s what’s going to be the pleasant surprise to people, that it’s a Western and that it stays along the lines of a Western that happens to be in the backdrop of slavery. Slavery almost becomes secondary at a certain point because at the beginning it’s traditional, slave. Then once he becomes this bounty hunter, that’s the backdrop. Now it’s about revenge and about getting this girl, so he stayed true to that and that’s cinematic."
What do Westerns mean to you?
"Yeah, I’m from Texas, man. For me, being from Texas, when he said I was going to wear the green jacket, I said, 'I’m going to wear the green jacket from Bonanza?' He said yeah. I said, 'Oh, man.' As a kid, whether you were black or white or Hispanic, when you were growing up everybody watched Hee Haw, everybody watched Bonanza, everybody twirled little plastic guns. And in my home, the Brown family, we actually had a rodeo. We had horses. We didn’t do bull riding but we did tricks and stuff like that. So it was real cool. And then also too I get a chance to ride my own horse in the movie."
How was working with Kerry Washington again?
"Oh man, Kerry’s a riot. She’s not a daffodil. She’s not weak. She was in there with the big boys and giving a performance that, to me, it really makes the movie move because if the movie was just simply about revenge, then you’d bore; you’d tire with 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 as a dramatic actor. Is Django Unchained another reinvention for you?
"All I can say is thank you to Quentin Tarantino. I told him if he gets married, I’ll sing at the wedding. I’ll DJ his bedroom if I need to. 'What’ch y’all wanna hear?' It really does come down to in this business moments like this that change your career. Now I don't know what I would do if I wasn’t in this movie, but this movie is, I think, one of the ones that may change the trajectory of where I was going. So, just thanks to him."
What TV show are you obsessed with?
"Basketball Wives, Mob Wives, any of those. I love all that. I’m sorry. And I just saw the ex-wives of the stars. They gotta start fighting or they’re going to cancel it. Somebody’s gotta throw a punch at some point. Somebody’s got to throw a punch. At some point somebody’s gotta get knocked out and then the producer jumps in like they didn’t plan it."