It was kind of surprising to see Jamie Foxx sitting up. Normally, the Oscar-winning actor conducts interviews in a far more relaxed state — somewhere in between slumping on a chair or fully reclined on the sofa.
That perhaps speaks to confidence he has in himself. He likes to feel good in the skin he’s in, which probably makes it easy for him to go way left and say and do some of the things he does.
He’s not the most politically correct brother on the planet.
But even when he goes there — to that place where he theorizes and analyzes what’s up in his world and yours — the Terrell, Texas, native has this way of making you understand where he’s coming from. He has storng opinions whether he’s talking politics or admitting that “Stealth” was a really bad movie, sharing his disdain for Kanye West or explaining why people should lay off Michael Vick.
You become engaged with his logic because he’s funny and smart. And that’s part of the reason why he’s become such a huge star. You want to hear him and be entertained by him as well.
Foxx, 39, does what he does well — makes you laugh and think — in “The Kingdom,” his new thriller that opens wide on Friday. Foxx plays Ronald Fleury, a tough FBI agent who has traveled to the Middle East with a team of experts to find out who is behind a series of terrorist bombings. Certainly, the subject matter hits close to home, particularly at a time when Foxx is kind of redefining his own brand of political correctness — particularly when it comes to the war in Iraq.
Not afraid to talk politics“It’s not the way America has handled the war, it’s the way George Bush has handled it,” Foxx said. “I think George Bush and the guys that are there, just don’t have the charisma to pull off the things that they’re trying to do. I can understand if you want to go to war, but how do you go to war? They go to war in a high-risk, high-return or high-risk, no return in this situation. You’ll be in Iraq for another 30 years. You can’t get out.”
Foxx also thinks that the current administration is out of touch with people in general — whether it be with the folks at home or interacting with the various ethnicities in the Middle East and around the world. “Kingdom” director Peter Berg shot part of his film in Abu Dhabi and Foxx returned to the States with a better appreciation and understanding of Middle Eastern culture.
He loved the way the Muslims prayed. “It was a beautiful thing,” he said. He dug the way they partied. “You have never partied until you go over there. They throw down! You’re drinking out of crystal, eating off of solid gold forks — everything is top class. I thought I threw some good parties, but I ain’t got nothing on them! Phantoms (Rolls Royce), all that. They have some serious cash.”
But the thing he admired the most was they way that they hold on to their culture. That’s something he thinks is sorely missing in America right now.
“It’s great to see people hold on to their culture,” he said. “America’s in kind of a culture funk — like what is our culture right now? Everybody’s sort of in their own corner. What’s going to be that thing that brings us together? There’s this weird thing that’s happening in America right now, because I think the people who are running it just don’t have the charisma to encompass everybody. Our country changes every single day and you have to be up on it. You have to be up on the different religions and how do I talk to them? Homosexuality, how do I speak to these people? So, whoever runs the country next has to be that person who addresses the new America — someone who can bring the black, the white, the Hispanics and the Lebanese together.”
Foxx sees Illinois Senator Barack Obama as the next great unifier.
“See, you learn from Republicans,” he said. “Republicans vote party. They don’t vote individual. Democrats, we vote, ‘Oh, he’s good looking and suave and his skin is all the same, no splotches.’ We vote according to looks and things like that, so I think we have to change the way we do things. So, I’m supporting Barack Obama and if by chance he doesn’t win, I will support whoever the Democratic candidate is.”
Defending hip hopConsidering that Foxx is one of the most versatile talents in Hollywood — he acts, sings, produces, DJs, composes and is a pretty skilled athlete — it sounds as though Foxx should throw his Kangol (cap) into the ring and run his own kingdom. Not only does he have some good ideas on how to improve international relations, but he might also have a viable solution to the ongoing rap wars at home, too. This week BET is airing a three-part series devoted to trying this issue called “Hip Hop vs. America.”
Foxx isn’t part of the program, but perhaps he should have been.
“It doesn’t matter what the lyrics are,” the Grammy-nominated artist said. “The lyrics don’t have anything to do with who and what we are as a society. You look at it like this — hip hop is a reflection. Jay-Z doesn’t rap about killing or selling drugs any more, does he? He’s in a different space. So, what do you do? Let’s change the reflection. How do you change the reflection? These guys rap about what’s going on in their hood. Change what’s going on in that block, in that city and hip hop will have to change.
“People thought NWA was gangsta rap. No, they were political rappers. They were talking about police brutality, what was going on in the hood. There’s good hip hop, there’s bad hip hop. There’s good classical, there’s bad classical.”
And there are good movies and bad ones. Foxx thinks that “The Kingdom” is a winner.
“When you’re working with Michael Mann and Peter Berg, the commercial success is not the first thing you think about,” Foxx said. “The first thing you think about is the art of it. When you look at Al Pacino and his body of work, all of them weren’t commercial successes, but those were the ones that you remember. That’s not to say that I don’t want to be commercially successful, but you know that when you’re doing a (good) piece that you can look back on it and be happy about it, I think.”
It’s one thing to be smart and funny, but Foxx has evolved into a man who is smarter, funnier and more intuitive since winning that best actor Oscar for “Ray” in 2005.
It’s no wonder he’s now sitting up when he speaks. When you’re on a roll as he is, there’s no slumping allowed.
Miki Turner is an entertainment columnist for MSNBC.com. She welcomes your comments at .