"I still don’t understand why we got overlooked [by the Academy]," Foxx jokes about the film, which co-starred fellow "In Living Color" alum Tommy Davidson. Before Booty, though, there was "Color" – an experience Foxx considers his training ground. "Those guys were doing things that weren’t just jokes in your face. They were doing real characters," he says. "We were trying to make [the characters] more than one-dimensional, so it was a great training ground being under Keenan [Ivory Wayans] and Damon [Wayans] and Jim Carrey and all of those cats."
Foxx has come a long way since he joined the cast of TV’s popular sketch comedy series. After a few years he made the leap to movies, and then returned to the small screen with a self-titled WB sitcom. Throughout the 1990s he did film work on the side, taking mediocre-sized roles in films like Any Given Sunday. All his hard work would pay off, though, with Ray. And now, post-Oscar, Foxx returns to the big screen yet again with the Gulf War-set drama, Jarhead.
In the film, directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty) and co-starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Foxx plays a military sergeant in the middle of the Persian Gulf conflict who is born-again-hard about putting his men through rigorous rounds of physical endurance testing and mind games.
During the film’s shoot, which took place in the desert dunes of Southern California, near the Mexico border, Foxx had to travel back up to LA to attend the Academy Awards – where, unforgettably, he took home a trophy for Ray. Says Foxx about his return to work on the Jarhead set: "It was great getting back to the set because those young guys were like, ‘Man, how was it?’ And I was like, ‘you know, well, I really felt that’ and they were like, ‘No, no, no … who was there?’ And I was like, ‘Aw, man, it was Clint Eastwood and, you know, it was Meg Ryan – it was crazy!’"
He continues, "It’s fun with me having something like [an Oscar], ‘cause when you look at other [black] Oscar winners like Halle [Berry] and Denzel [Washington]. You know, that’s like ‘wow’– hey, they won."
"But with me … I’m able to talk about things [in ways that] maybe some of the other Oscar winners couldn’t," Foxx adds, saying that he likens his role in Hollywood to that of Johnny Carson sidekick Ed McMahon. "Will Smith is Johnny Carson. Tom Cruise is Johnny Carson … Winning the Oscar’s kind of like Ed McMahon when he got "Star Search" – it’s like, ‘Oh, you got your own thang!’"
Whether or not he likens himself to funnyman McMahon, one thing definitely became clear to Foxx while he was filming Jarhead.
"A lot of time, since we’re in Hollywood and we drink cappuccinos and
we go to brunch – we think [about things] a lot. And a lot of these [military]
guys are from places [in Middle America] where they don’t ‘think’
a whole lot, [they react]," says Foxx about one of the ways he perceives
Jarhead’s message about the military. "In LA, we ponder … you think,
you wonder. But the demographics where a lot of these [soldiers] are from, when
you go back to your hometown and you have that soldier’s uniform on, you’re
heralded – that is their Super Bowl. That is their Oscar. That is their Stanley
Jarhead releases in theaters Nov. 4.