A "Kingdom" For This Foxx

By Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel

September 22, 2007


E ric Bishop dreamed of hitting the big time, and in Tyler, Texas where he was born and raised and has a house of his own, his grandmother always spurred him on, encouraging him to reach for his ultimate dreams and talents and manifest them in ways that would make him a phenomenal success.  Now Jamie Foxx (nee Bishop) has attained all that he has hoped to in a multi-faceted career as a musician, singer, songwriter, comedian extraordinaire and Oscar-winning motion picture actor, making more money than most eyes will ever hope to see.  The money however, was not the objective that Foxx was eyeing all along; there were more cherished and important variables than that -- much higher benchmarks -- like integrity and staying true to oneself. 

Jamie Foxx is talented, skilled and above all, down to earth.  His Academy Award-winning performance in 2005 for the film "Ray" catapulted him to the summit of A-list actors, along with such prolific actors as Denzel Washington, Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe, all veterans of the big screen, giving Foxx the cache, credibility and weight that his impressive acting (in such films as "Any Given Sunday", "Ali", "Redemption" and "Collateral") merited.  Mr. Foxx, 39, has worked alongside Mr. Cruise (in the aforementioned 2004 film "Collateral", for which he was also nominated) and counts Mr. Washington as a friend and motivator who has advised him to walk tall and in the right direction. 

After searing the landscape as the duplicitous Curtis Taylor, Jr. in last year's Oscar-winning film "Dreamgirls" with an all-star cast that included Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover and Beyonce, there's another all-star cast that the actor (who also plays piano) joins in a new film -- and this Friday (September 28) movie-going audiences will be treated to another serious and creditable performance by Foxx in it.  On that date, "The Kingdom", a Universal Pictures release, opens across North America, and it is directed by Peter Berg, the actor-director (helmer of "Friday Night Lights" and "The Rundown") who also starred as a Los Angeles police detective in "Collateral", and will appear in November in a cameo in Robert Redford's "Lions For Lambs" (also featuring Redford in front of the camera, as well as Mr. Cruise, Meryl Streep, Derek Luke and Michael Pena.)  Mr. Berg has also appeared in such films as "The Last Seduction" and "Girl 6". 

In "The Kingdom", a political thriller originally slated for release in April (but delayed for a September release after some very positive test screenings for audiences), Foxx stars as Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Ronald Fleury, in charge of a team he assembles to visit Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to hunt for and capture a jihadist network responsible for a deadly terrorist attack against Americans working in the Middle Eastern country.  Complications ensue as the FBI team becomes ensnared in the politics and culture shock surrounding them on Saudi soil.  Unexpected allies develop, and the mission for justice takes many perilous turns.  "The Kingdom", shot largely in Dubai, also stars Oscar winner Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Jeremy Piven, Danny Huston, Richard Jenkins, Ashraf Barhom and Ali Suliman.  The film was written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, who also wrote the screenplay for the forthcoming film "Lions For Lambs", another political drama.  Joe Carnahan, the director of such films as "Narc" (executive-produced by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner) and this year's "Smokin' Aces", is Matthew's brother.

We Three Oscar Winners: Jamie Foxx with Hilary Swank (two-time winner) and Charlize Theron (right), at a Hollywood Foreign Press Association event in July.  (Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Events will change a person, and for Fleury, whose views about the U.S. government's war on terror are fully put to the test after an early setback that affects him in a shocking way, the processing of a response to adversity forces Fleury, on the biggest assignment of his FBI life, into action.  Despite the seriousness of the film and his character, Foxx observed the real-life agents and their attitudes during training for the role of Fleury.  "For the real guys," Foxx said in an interview, "dealing with explosives and threats was just another day in the office."  Harkening to his comedic roots was simple for the actor, as he observed his on-the-job agent teachers keeping the mood light.  "I brought that attitude to my role . . . ", said Foxx, who has played a quick-thinking cabdriver and a brash young football quarterback among his diverse silver screen characters.

While Foxx was shooting "Miami Vice" in late 2005, Michael Mann, the film's director, handed the actor a script for "The Kingdom".  Mr. Mann, having also directed Foxx in "Ali" and "Collateral", knew that the actor had what it took to nail Fleury in the lead role.  Foxx had played cameo-like roles in such films as "Stealth" and "Jarhead" and for Mann it was far from a stretch to see his leading man from "Collateral" and "Vice" come through for Peter Berg, whom Mann also directed in "Collateral".  In an interview, Mann, who was one of the producers on "The Kingdom", citied Foxx's ability to be a chameleon-like figure in his acting.  "Jamie can project himself so thoroughly into characters and identities.  He's absolutely credible to me as somebody in the FBI -- there is a seriousness of intent that these folks have."

The seriousness of intent for Foxx is to continue his multi-layered dexterity on the big screen, in music and on the comedic stage.  His entertainment company Foxx King Productions is also very active.  The embryonic motion picture production from Foxx King was the film "Life Support", which starred Queen Latifah in lead role in the true story of a crack-addicted single mother who turned her life around, cleaned herself up and became a highly-respected role-model and community activist against the scourge of HIV-AIDS in the Black community.  "Life Support", which Mr. Foxx executive-produced for the film's director Nelson George, had its world premiere at this year's Sundance Film Festival in January before landing on HBO in March in its debut on American cable network television. 

On the musical front, Foxx is just as busy.  His last CD album, "Unpredictable", released in late 2005, vaulted to the top of the Billboard Music Charts and held that spot for five consecutive weeks, selling some one million units over a 20-day span.  Foxx also featured prominently on Kanye West's smash hit single "Gold Digger" in 2005.  Foxx spent parts of last year touring his album, including a New Year's Eve concert in Oakland, California. 

Many accolades have been bestowed upon Foxx in a relatively short time.  With an American Music Awards win for Favorite Male Artist, an Oscar win, an NAACP Image Award win, a Screen Actors Guild Award win, a BAFTA win, and a Golden Globe win under his belt, Foxx stays firmly rooted to the ground.  In just nine years on the big screen as an actor, Jamie Foxx has already achieved more than some actors do in a lifetime, and he is thankful. 

The kingdom is all his.

"The Kingdom", directed by Peter Berg, and co-produced by Michael Mann, opens this Friday (September 28) in theaters in the United States and Canada.  The film is distributed by Universal Pictures.  The film is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America.  A review will be posted here on Friday.

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