Jamie Foxx

Ray

Interviewed by Anwar Brett

“ LA has a certain sizzle, and when you get the sizzle in LA it's very good. You feel like everybody is rooting for you, so this a really good time ”

Before Any Given Sunday six years ago Jamie Foxx seemed a likeable journeyman actor in films like Booty Call and The Players Club. But since, he has gone from strength to strength, with strong performances in Ali, Collateral and the Oscar tipped Ray, the story of legendary blues singer Ray Charles. He also won acclaim for his title role in the TV movie Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story.

Everything seems to be happening for you right now, with great roles, great performances and a raft of nominations.

LA has a certain sizzle, and when you get the sizzle in LA, it's very good. When the Golden Globe nominations were announced [Foxx got three], I literally had about 70 missed calls on my two phones at home. You feel like everybody is rooting for you, so this a really good time. The next couple of years will be the testing time, but this is the Cinderella time

The irony is that all this seems to have stemmed from your stepping in when Sean Combs left Any Given Sunday - it's like you came off the bench and made the most of your opportunity doesn't it?

I was talking to Kanye West the other night, he's up for 10 Grammy nominations and he said "What do I do now?". But I compared it to a big game and I told him that when Michael Jordan played the Nicks and scored 52 points, he didn't cancel the trip to the LA Clippers the next day, he carried on playing. So you've just got to keep playing ball and hopefully you'll get another game like this. But right now it's so much fun.

You wore prosthetics over your eyes to simulate Ray's blindness. How difficult was that?

It was tough because after six hours you lose perception of your surroundings and then you begin to notice voices a lot more. When they glued my eyes together for the prosthetics I even had to keep it that way for lunch, which was tough, but we couldn't afford the time to remove them and put them on again. We couldn't afford it. But losing the weight was tough too, because Ray was a smaller guy than me. I went from 190 to 157 pounds.

Biopics are notoriously bland usually, stripping away any note of controversy. But the portrayal of Ray here is pretty much warts-and-all, isn't it?

When was the last time you got a chance to do a movie that's really real, that shows the impurities, the imperfections and the flaws? Biopics sometimes suffer because you have somebody from the big studio saying, "No, no, no we can't say that, we have to keep this guy or girl's reputation looking good". But Ray Charles was the type of guy who said that if we didn't show all that, then it wasn't going to be the real thing. And he was a guy who really took chances.

You played piano alongside Ray before you began filming. What was that experince like?

It was very nerve-wracking before he arrived. But then when he comes in you immediately feel like the young son. When we started playing he said, "Jamie quit worrying, if you can play the blues you can do anything." So we started playing the blues, moving back and forth and then he started moving in all this other stuff that I didn't think Ray Charles even knew. I was like "How does he know all this stuff". And he's playing all of this stuff and he moves into Thelonious Monk. He said, "Now come on!" I thought "where's the music?", but he played it and I hit a wrong note and he said, "now why the hell would you do that?" What he was looking for was the explanation of why I'd played the wrong note. He said, "The notes are right underneath your fingers, all you've got to do is take your time to play the right ones." That's what life is, if you take time to do the right thing it's going to happen.

Ray is released in UK cinemas on Friday 21st January 2005.