Where Oscar Leads: Jamie Foxx
By Daron Aldridge
July 3, 2009
Jamie Foxx obviously knows that steadfast, yet unwritten, rule that if you play a real, troubled genius, you will likely score an Oscar nomination and quite possibly take home the trophy. Given the onslaught of awards deservedly thrown at Jamie Foxx's feet for his portrayal of the late Ray Charles in 2004's Ray, his Oscar win shouldn't have surprised anyone. But where exactly did Oscar led him?
Until his banner year in 2004 with Ray and another praised performance opposite Tom Cruise in Collateral, Foxx had rather humble, lowbrow beginnings. He made his living in the world of television with the occasional failure at the box office. With a run on the Wayans-fest sketch show In Living Color from 1991 to 1994, Foxx created fittingly over-the-top characters such as Wanda, the ugliest woman in the world. It probably chaps Jim Carrey's hide that he didn't become the first In Living Color alumni to win an Oscar. Sorry, Jim Carrey but apparently you are the unfortunate exception to the aforementioned rule for biopics.
Between his Wayans employment and starring in his own sitcom, creatively titled The Jamie Foxx Show, Foxx offered the world a movie that popularized a slang term as the title of a movie that no one saw. Of course, that film was 1997's Booty Call with Tommy Davidson.
Wisely and probably due in part to his sketch comedy background, Foxx was part of minor successes with him in minor roles. Oliver Stone's football drama Any Given Sunday did respectable business but Foxx was the fifth billed person between James Woods and LL Cool J. Two years later, he lent his support to Will Smith's Ali in 2001 and was praised for the performance.
Unfortunately, in between Any Given Sunday and Ali, his man-on-the-run Enemy of the State rip-off, Bait, cost Warner Bros. $35 million but only yielded $15.3 million. Clearly, the label "box office heavyweight" was not even close to applicable to Jamie Foxx.
Then along came his works in 2004, which gave him access to not only the exclusive club of Leading Actor Oscar winners but he is also one of only a handful of people to be nominated for lead and supporting role Oscars in the same year.
Likely in late February 2005 in post-Oscar euphoria, the studios began rabidly salivating at the prospect of a new marquee name that would cost the fraction of Will Smith's salary but could be revenue and acclaim magnets. I mean, how many Oscars does the Fresh Prince have? That's right...zero.
Foxx had two films already in the can at the time of his win and both reflected his earlier career station of working as a supporting player. His first trip in theaters following his Oscar was the bomb that was Stealth. In late summer of 2005, this catastrophic piece of cinema was unleashed on theaters. True to its name, no one noticed that it was there. For a movie with a reported budget of $130 million (that was also reportedly lowered by about $70 million to save face), Stealth earned a minute $31.7 million. Foxx was probably pleased that his minor supporting character was killed off rather quickly, so the studios realistically couldn't market it too much as "starring Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx." Why'd he do this misfire? Maybe he could just "blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol."