In Robin Hood, Jamie Foxx plays the hero’s loyal right-hand man. Here, he talks about Instagram, good works and being friends with Quincy Jones.
Mr. Foxx, In Robin Hood, you play Little John, a canny giant of a man – the name is pure irony. Did you take a look at all the previous movies to see how other actors portrayed the brave hero’s second-in-command?
No, I didn’t need to. Our story stands for itself, it has very little in common with the old films. In any case, I don’t hold with that method. As an actor, I’m like a sponge that soaks everything up. If you’re not careful, you can pick up too much of what you’ve seen someone else doing.
How would you describe the big difference between your Robin Hood and the old movies?
Although the story is set in the past, it is still realistic and relevant to the present day. I play a man from Arabia who fights the English on their crusades but later, traumatized by his wartime experiences, travels to his enemy’s country. You would have to have been living on the other side of the moon not to see just how topical this story is. Abuse of power and the hope for change that Robin Hood represents are also integral to the story. On the one side, you have people acting out of greed and on the other, those who oppose and resist them. That doesn’t sound like an old legend to me.
Do you think the audience will be open to that interpretation?
For sure! It’s a cool, modern action film for a young audience. You can already see that on Instagram. Whenever the team posted some advance shots from the film, they received what felt like a flood of Likes. My friends always laughed when I told them about my role. They thought I would be running around in tights. But believe you me, tights are the last thing that come to mind in this film.
Why do you think this quintessentially British saga holds such a fascination for Americans?
Whether we like it or not, greed plays a huge role everywhere in the world. Now and again, I watch the fascinating TV documentary series “American Greed.” It really shows how things work: First, someone just wants to have a bit more money, but before you know it, he’s grown insatiable. Not long after that, he’s caught up in the kinds of wheelings and dealings that cause banking crises.
How does that tie in with Robin Hood?
I believe those kinds of mechanisms always spark counter-reactions – and that a Robin Hood spirit has always run through U.S. society. The more people enrich themselves at the expense of others, the more people there will be, who, like Robin Hood, want to take from the rich to give to the poor. We Americans have a fine instinct and have always taken care to preserve the balance within our system.
Few countries have as many charitable organizations as the U.S. or people more willing to give. What about you?
I’m involved closely with the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. My younger sister DeOndra has Down syndrome. When she made a video for one of my songs and posted it online, it drew the foundation’s attention to us. Since then, I’ve being giving them lots of support.
Yes, but not only. We stage a big charity event in Denver every year, also with the support of the amazing music producer Quincy Jones. It involves a fashion show, where models with Down syndrome parade down the catwalk in Versace or Gucci, and there’s also an auction, of course. It’s very moving and there’s never a dry eye in the house, even among celebrities like Queen Latifah, Peyton Manning and Alec Baldwin. Before I began supporting the organization eight years ago, it was raising roughly 200 000 dollars a year for research. Today, it receives 30 to 40 million in donations!
I’ve always been incredibly fortunate in my choice of mentors
Is the legendary Quincy Jones a role model for you?
He’s more than that; he’s a friend and also one of my mentors – and for that, I feel blessed. I once sat talking with him for hours about how he worked with people like Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Michael Jackson; it was one of the best experiences of my life. But I’ve always been incredibly fortunate in my choice of mentors, who also include Denzel Washington. When he comes to dinner at my house, half my friends come by to crowd around him because everyone wants to learn something from the great man.
Do you also pass on to others the experience you have gained?
Absolutely. Hollywood is a strange and complicated place where good advice always comes in useful. When I see talented young guys, I want to help them out. I think it’s important not to lose enthusiasm for what you’re doing. Essentially, we are all members of a community of artists, but it’s easy to lose sight of that if you are only looking out for what the press is writing and what’s happening on social media.
On Unpredictable, your most successful album as a musician, which you released 14 years ago, you included “Heaven,” a track about God. Where do you stand on spirituality today?
For me, spirituality has always been a driving force. I am crazy about the idea that a heaven or something similar could exist. I don’t belong to any particular religion, but I am interested in all kinds of spirituality. All too often, religions are played off against each other. I do the opposite; I bring the different faiths together – at least for me, personally – and merge them, just like that, with no particular goals, purely instinctively.