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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 February, 2005, 10:09 GMT
Meeting the fantastic Mr Foxx
By Manoush Zomorodi
BBC Talking Movies

Jamie Foxx
Jamie Foxx topped the Billboard chart earlier this year

Jamie Foxx has been unstoppable on his road to Oscar glory.

The 37-year-old former comedian was the favourite to win the best actor award for his portrayal of music legend Ray Charles in the biopic Ray - and he duly won.

He was also nominated in the best supporting actor category for his role as the mild-mannered taxi driver in Collateral, but lost out to Morgan Freeman. He is only the second man in history to be nominated for two roles in the same year - the first was Al Pacino.

In the run-up to the Oscars, Foxx had already won multiple awards for his role in Ray, including a Bafta. Yet he remains steadfast about who he believes is the star of the film.

"I've always said I'm not the leading actor in the film. Ray Charles is the leading actor and I'm the supporting actor, because without his life we wouldn't have had anything," Foxx insists.

To portray the blind pianist, Foxx lost thirty pounds and wore eye prosthetics to block his sight.

Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles
Ray Charles approved of the casting of gifted pianist Jamie Foxx

"Then it was a matter of getting the nuance of Ray Charles. How he orders his food, how he talks to his woman, how he gets upset. And not the impersonation, but how he really is," Foxx says.

Foxx, who began studying piano at the age of three, prepared for the role by rehearsing music with Ray Charles himself. The actor describes him as a tough teacher.

"We got a chance to sing the blues with each other, and I hit the wrong note, and he said, 'why the hell would you do that'? And I said 'I don't know Ray'".

"And he said, 'the notes are right underneath your fingers, and all you gotta do is take time out to find the right note. That's what life is, we all got notes underneath our fingers and we gotta take time to find the right notes, to come up with our own music'," recalls Foxx.

Growing reputation

After starring in his own television series, The Jamie Foxx Show, Foxx's first cinematic success came in 1999 with Oliver Stone's sports drama Any Given Sunday.

That role and a recommendation from friend and fellow actor Will Smith led to a supporting role in Ali.

Jamie Foxx in Collateral
Foxx praised the generosity of Collateral co-star Tom Cruise

Foxx earned high praise for his part in the 2001 picture about fighting legend Muhammad Ali and it paid off later. The film's director, Michael Mann, made sure Foxx scored the starring role opposite Tom Cruise in his film Collateral.

Foxx says that even though Cruise was the big name in Collateral, he gave Foxx room to shine: "Tom Cruise is such a big star but he allows you to eat. He says, 'eat, Foxx, eat it up, do the scene, tear it up'".

Foxx has been known to sing to audiences when picking up an award and he's obviously thrilled with all the attention. He's finally becoming a big box-office star, and yet Foxx claims not to crave A-list status and all that comes with it.

"I won't name any names, but people who live their lives out in the press, it takes away from their art. Because by the time you see them in a movie, they [the actors] are not as interesting," Foxx says.

Foxx believes audiences become obsessed with the personal lives of actors and then don't take their films seriously.

Music career

Foxx seems to have reached the pinnacle of his career in the movies, but he also is making news in the music world.

Insiders say that Foxx's portrayal of Ray Charles revived many music lovers' interest in Charles' bluesy music. The revived interest may be one of the reasons why Charles' final album Genius Loves Company won so many honours at the recent Grammy awards.

Jamie Foxx in Ray
Foxx's performance uncannily echoes the charismatic Ray Charles

At the Grammy's show, Foxx joined R&B singer Alicia Keys on stage for a moving rendition of Ray Charles' Georgia on My Mind.

Foxx is no stranger to musical performance: earlier this year, his duet with singer Kanye West reached the top of the American Billboard charts and Foxx has plans to release a solo R&B album later this year.

But his fans at the cinema needn't fear. Foxx has several film projects in the pipeline, including an action film with the Oscar-winning American Beauty director Sam Mendes.

With Foxx also set to star in the movie version of the hit eighties police show Miami Vice, he appears to be a star whose versatility knows no bounds.

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