In appreciation of Jamie Foxx

Let me start with this: when I sat down to write this, news broke in the U.S. that Nelson Mandela passed away. I’m on an e-mail thread with some of my best guy friends, and we had a quick exchange about his role — if quantifiable — to the period from 1900 to 2000. It basically isn’t quantifiable. I’m not actually writing about that right now — I might this weekend, once time has passed — because really, my remarks on Nelson Mandela won’t add a lot to the overall discourse that will take place in the next 24-48 hours. Instead, I’m writing about Jamie Foxx. He’s playing MLK in an upcoming movie, so that’s vaguely similar to Mandela in some respects, I suppose (the last major actor to play Mandela was Stringer Bell himself, FYI).

Alright, so about the clip embedded above — that’s the Spider Man 2 trailer. I was initially going to write this post about that, and about how every single villain ever seems to be there, but that’s the flavor of the day on the Internet. Foxx is purportedly the lead villain. I would say more, but I don’t know the Spider Man universe as well as a fat nerd such as myself should, and I’m afraid of getting flamed on certain boards where this could theoretically be shared. I will say this, that I’ve always found interesting (then I’ll finally talk about Foxx): the last set of Spider Man flicks were directed by Sam Raimi; before that, he was doing Evil Dead and Darkman (before Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan wrote Home Fries; these are things only the Internet will teach you). Marc Webb helms these new Spider Man movies. He’s best known for 500 Days of Summer, but before that he was doing music video work with Jesse McCartney, Green Day, and 3 Doors Down. Point is: if you think you’ve hit a wall somewhere along the way, always remember that Sam Raimi went from making Darkman to literally printing money with the Spider Man franchise. That shift happened in one day, somewhere along the line. Life. Embrace it.

It’s the same with Jamie Foxx, honestly. Think about this analogy. You probably have a friend from HS or college that was a total train wreck up to a point, and then suddenly you’re on an e-mail or get a phone call that he’s clerking at the Supreme Court or a contender for Governor of Michigan or something. That friend is the Jamie Foxx of your life. In 1997, this guy was playing a character called “Bunz” in a movie called Booty Call. Seven years later, he was playing Ray Charles and winning an Oscar — in the same year he was nominated for another Oscar in another category. Since then, he’s won Grammys, he’s entered into superhero franchises, he’s been in Dreamgirls, etc, etc.

Remember, this is where it started for Foxx:

I honestly think this is an important point. I’ve had terrible jobs in my life, and I’ve only been really working for about 10 years. I’ve had jobs where I’ve been like, “Goddamn, this job is terrible and I’ll never escape it! I’ll retire here, miserable!” Now, I’m a melodramatic pig, to be sure … but whenever I feel that way, I think for a second about Jamie Foxx. This guy was Wanda on In Living Color. He was in Toys, which is one of the biggest flops of the 1990s. He was in a series of stereotypical black roles including Hanging with Mr. Cooper and Roc. Now he’s legitimately one of the bigger stars in the world.

Ah, you balk at that assumption? (Some do.) Consider this: Foxx can act, he can sing, he can produce, he can dance, he can do comedy. Try and think of people that can hit all those marks. I can think of maybe 2-3. Hugh Jackman can act, produce, sing, and dance; he can’t do comedy per se but he can be funny in interviews and in the right roles. Will Smith can act, produce, sing/rap, dance, and do comedy. Justin Timberlake can do all of them (“act” might be the biggest reach). Whoopi Goldberg has a claim. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Christian Bale are on the outskirts of this discussion. (I’m sure I’m missing people too.) Point is, Foxx’s talents are diverse. You can say he came from little career-wise, but we all did — everyone has to work their way up — but he came from little in terms of the hand life dealt him too.

Foxx does some random, stupid shit once in a while — he called Obama “our Lord and Savior,” he blamed violent movies and video games for Newtown, he’s been in casino brawls, he’s claimed “black people are the most talented,” he’s compared Obama to LeBron James, etc. And yet, those all fade into the past. Instead, he’s filming a modern version of Annie produced by Jay-Z and Will Smith (whoa):

In the grand scheme of an entertainer’s life, they are lucky if they produce one thing that resonates with others (hence the fascination with “one-hit wonders”). Think for a second about Jamie Foxx. You probably wouldn’t necessarily classify him as an “A+ tier mega-star,” but he’s responsible for this:

… and this ….

… and part of this …

… and this…

Right. He’s an all-timer, honestly. And now he’s in a superhero franchise!

There are two bottom lines to this post, I ‘spose: (1) Jamie Foxx is awesome (honestly, just watch that last embed if you watch nothing else) and (2) whenever you think you’re down, or trapped, or can’t go anywhere from where you are, remember Jamie Foxx, who went from Bunz to an Oscar winner and Grammy winner, and remember the Spider Man franchise, where people go from 3 Doors Down and Darkman to creating movies where the trailer rises to the top of Reddit and Twitter in about 30 minutes. Everyone’s gotta grind to get where they’re destined to be, and I can’t even think of a better pop culture example than Jamie Foxx.

Ted Bauer