Creating a villain who makes the hero look good

Creating a villain who makes the hero look good
Jamie Foxx (above), who plays the villain Electro in the latest Spider-Man film.

Is there anything Jamie Foxx cannot do?

The 46-year-old is an Oscar-winning actor, a Grammy-winning musician, a wickedly funny comedian and one of the most charismatic celebrities in Hollywood.

Andrew Garfield is the main attraction at a press event to promote The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in Los Angeles, but Foxx is the one who wins everyone over, cracking jokes and playing ping pong with reporters one minute, and thoughtfully answering their questions the next.

Foxx plays Electro, a spurned Spider-Man superfan who turns villainous after an unfortunate electrical accident. He tells Life! that it was important to him to flesh the character out with a proper back story and motivations.

"Andrew Garfield approaches Spider-Man in a cerebral way and says, 'How do I make Spider-Man have layers to him?' So my thing was, what's going to make his layers even more relevant is how sincere we are with Electro.

"And I would ask not to say certain lines because they were jokey, and I wanted Electro to be sort of quiet and really angry when he turns into this guy."

It is not surprising that Foxx would not settle for playing a two-dimensional character. The actor has won much acclaim for his dramatic work, including films such as the 2004 biopic Ray, where his portrayal of musician Ray Charles earned him an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

More recently, there was his role in Quentin Tarantino's award-winning Western, Django Unchained (2012).

Foxx, who also has two Grammys to his name, including for Best Rap Solo in the 2006 Kanye West song Gold Digger, says playing a freed slave in that movie opened new doors for him.

"Sometimes, your career has to be in a certain orbit for people to look at you in a certain way. When my management secured with Quentin for me to do Django, it sort of changed the way people look at me. After that, people went, you can play the president. And the next thing I know, I'm playing the president," he says, referring to his role in the 2013 action film White House Down.

The actor, who began his career as a stand-up comic and went on to appear on the same sketch show, In Living Colour (1990-1994), that launched Jim Carrey's career, says another lesson he has learnt is not to "chase the money" when making decisions about which projects to do, even though he lived from pay cheque to pay cheque in the early years of his career.

"I mean, I never got the big pay cheques,'' says Foxx, who is single and has two daughters, aged 20 and five, from previous relationships.

"I'd be looking at Will Smith and go, like, 'Damn, how big is your trailer?' I was never really in that category. But what I noticed about chasing the money is, it always doesn't pan out.

"And what I know now is just make sure there's meat on the bones when it comes to work. There're things that you're going to do for the money, some things you're going to do to stay relevant and some things you do because they're in your heart.

"And, hopefully, the things that are heartfelt can touch all the bases."

This article was published on April 30 in The Straits Times.

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