Jamie Foxx hopes n-word bothers you in ‘Django Unchained’
BY CINDY PEARLMAN December 20, 2012 9:16PM
This undated publicity image released by The Weinstein Company shows, from left, Christoph Waltz as Schultz and Jamie Foxx as Django in the film "Django Unchained," directed by Quentin Tarantino. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe for best drama on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012. The 70th annual Golden Globe Awards will be held on Jan. 13. (AP Photo/The Weinstein Company, Andrew Cooper, SMPSP)
Updated: January 24, 2013 6:15AM
NEW YORK — Jamie Foxx wants to make one thing perfectly clear. He’s no stranger to that word.
“As a kid growing up in the South, I got called the n-word all the time,” says Foxx. “When I was a kid, it was ‘n’ this and ‘n’ that.’ That’s the way it was. That’s the way it is.”
The repeated use of that word in his new movie “Django Unchained” has been the stuff of controversy.
“We say that word in the movie and people say, ‘Well, I had a problem with that word,’ ” Foxx says. “I want to shout, ‘You should have a problem with that word. You’re supposed to let it affect you. That’s why it’s in the movie.’
“Telling our story is the way to understand where we came from and where we’ve come to as people. When you’re walking around with your Gucci and in your daily rush, you see a movie like this and should stop and let it bother you.”
It certainly bothered Foxx.
“My whole life changed doing this film,” says the 45-year-old Oscar winner for “Ray.”
“Django Unchained” (opening Tuesday), by director Quentin Tarantino, revolves around a slave (Foxx) who finds a mentor named Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). He becomes a bounty hunter who goes on a mission to rescue his beloved wife (Kerry Washington) from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).
When early news of the project leaked out, the talk was that Will Smith would have the title role. Foxx recalls thinking, “What a fantastic pairing of a huge star and a huge director with the subject matter of ‘Django.’ ”
Eventually Smith dropped out, and Foxx dropped in. The appeal of the role was multilayered for Foxx, a Texas native.
“I dug that ‘Django’ had this amazing love story and I’m on a horse. Right there, you got me. I’m riding and shooting guns like an old Western with cowboys,” he says. “I played plastic guns as a kid and pretended I was a cowboy.”
“I also knew I could articulate the questions of the movie when it was done. I could answer some of the harder questions.”
Like why we need a movie about the horrors of slavery.
“They do Holocaust movies just so that people know and don’t forget,” he says. “But there aren’t many films about slavery.”
Foxx worries that younger generations don’t quite grasp the horrors of that peculiar institution.
“I’ve taken my daughter to Plantation Row just to let her know what her ancestors went through in life. I mean, what does a kid who is 17 or even 25 know about slavery these days?” he poses. “They don’t really know where they come from. Slavery sounds like a folk tale to them.”
That trip happened when his daughter was 4. “I was walking around with tears in my eyes. My little one was running and jumping. She couldn’t understand the brutality of it all.”
He adds, “Now, I look at my beautiful daughter who is 18. At her age, she would have been going through the brutality of being a female slave at her age and unspeakable horrors. I want her to think about how this could have happened and why it happened.”
Foxx says the movie haunted him. “It made me look at my grandparents and how far they took our journey and all the passing spirits that went with them. I like to let them run through my body.
“I even looked at Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. With those men, it was always, ‘Why are they so this ... and that.’ Now, we make fun of them and don’t realize that they marched and did all of these things for us. “With an African American in the White House, I call it the evolution of freedom.”
Going back to the past on the set of “Django” made him really think about that evolution.
There’s a scene when his screen wife is lashed. Foxx almost couldn’t be on the set that day.
“I asked if we could play this song by gospel singer Fred Hammond called ‘No Weapon,’ ” he says. “At one point during the lashing, I saw one of the extras throw her hands up in the air like she was testifying. Another spontaneously grabbed a child, held onto him and cried. I watched Quentin cry. He said, ‘I had no idea.’
“It comes down to this: When a man beats a woman with a whip — and most of the time during slavery they beat the women to death — it takes you to another place,” Foxx says. “It’s one thing to write it and read it. But to shoot it is seeing it right in front of your face.
“The saddest thing I heard is that the slaves had to watch and then keep on moving. That was the thing that got me: the commonplace of it all.”
Foxx’s life is anything but common these days. He stars in the upcoming thriller “White House Down” as the president of the United States.
He also just celebrated a birthday. Ask him how, and he just laughs. “There is always a two-prong party. The first party is for my family and kid. We chill and kick it.
“Later in the week, it’s me and my friends chilling it up, baby! That’s what we gotta do! Do you know in Chi-town what chilling it up means?”
Answer: Yes, we know.
“I love Chicago,” Foxx says. “You don’t have to tell me how it’s doing in the3-1-2. I know you’re chilling it up.”
He will be chilling over the holidays.
“I used to party on Christmas. Now, I’m at the grill with kids all around me, yelling, ‘No, you can’t drink 25 Capri Suns.’
“It’s funny to look at myself living like this. And I’ve never been happier.”
Big Picture News Inc.