In 2005 Jamie Foxx became the third African-American, after Sidney Poitier and Denzel Washington, to win an Academy Award for best actor. Foxx won for his shining performance in Ray, a biopic about musician Ray Charles. "Thank you, Ray Charles, for living," Foxx said in his acceptance speech, which appeared on the Oscars Web site. Prior to his landmark Academy Award win, Foxx had already built an impressive show business resume, centered on his namesake sitcom, The Jamie Foxx Show. Foxx grew up in Terrell, Texas, had a passion for music, and moved to Los Angeles in 1990 in search of stardom. These biographical facts formed the basis of his character, Jamie King, on The Jamie Foxx Show. Foxx's self-titled sitcom ran from 1996 until 2001, totaling 100 episodes. His other credits include the films Any Given Sunday, Collateral, and Django Unchained.
Early Life and Education
Foxx--whose birth name is Eric Bishop--was adopted and raised by his maternal grandparents in Terrell, a town of 14,000 near Dallas, after his parents split up when he was still a baby. During his youth, Foxx spent much of his time at the New Hope Baptist Church, where he became the choir leader and music director by the age of 15, in addition to playing the piano at Sunday services. At Terrell High School, where he was a football quarterback and a member of the track team, he entertained his teammates with comical impressions of their coaches. Foxx would later put this talent to profitable use in comedy clubs and as a cast member of the television sitcom In Living Color, which regularly featured Foxx delivering sharp-edged impressions of well-known African Americans. In an interview with Cynthia True, published in Texas Monthly in 1998, Foxx reminisced happily about growing up in Terrell, and remarked that "Though we were broke, I had a great childhood." On his Oscar-winning night, he especially thanked his late maternal grandmother, Esther Talley. "After she whipped me, she would talk to me and tell me why she whipped me," he said. "She still talks to me now. Only now, she talks to me in my dreams. And I can't wait to go to sleep tonight because we got a lot to talk about."
After graduating from high school in 1986, Foxx enrolled at U.S. International University in San Diego on a music scholarship. His career as a stand-up comic began a few years later, in 1990, when his girlfriend dared him to take the stage during an open-mike night at The Comedy Store, a Los Angeles comedy club. Accepting the challenge, Foxx launched into impersonations of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, actor Bill Cosby, and boxer Mike Tyson. This experience marked a turning point in his life, and from then he knew comedy was what he wanted to do. By the following year, he had won the Bay Area Black Comedy Competition in Oakland, California, acquired a manager and an agent, and landed a supporting role in the Fox television network's sitcom Roc. As Foxx later told True, "I went from going to college on a music scholarship and playing modern jazz for the dance class, where I was making sixteen dollars an hour, to Los Angeles doing jokes. And the next thing you know, I was making thousands of dollars a week."
Early in his career, Foxx changed his name. At first he performed as Eric Bishop, but as his reputation grew, he recalls, the comics who ran the amateur night competitions at Los Angeles's comedy clubs envied his abilities and refused to let him perform. Amateur nights were an important way for a new comic to build a reputation, so Foxx decided to perform under a different name in clubs where he wasn't known. "Jamie Foxx" was chosen for its unisex quality. There were few female comics at amateur nights, and they were in demand because putting them on stage helped break up the monotony of a succession of male performers. The organizers would see "Jamie Foxx" on a list of potential performers, and, believing that Foxx was a woman, invite him to appear.
Foxx left Roc after one season and joined In Living Color, which provided a national showcase for his comedic talents from 1991 until its cancellation in 1994. As Foxx remarked during a People magazine interview in 1997, "Without In Living Color, I don't think I would exist now. People got to know me because of that show." A one-hour Home Box Office (HBO) television special, Straight from the Foxxhole, aired in 1993, and the following year, Foxx released Peep This, an album of songs which he both wrote and performed. The record reached the number 12 spot on Billboard magazine's rhythm and blues album chart. By 1996, Foxx had his own sitcom, The Jamie Foxx Show, on the Warner Bros. (WB) television network, and it was a hit. The show centered on Foxx's character, Jamie King, a singer from Terrell, Texas who moves to Los Angeles to realize his dream of becoming a wealthy and famous entertainer. Unlike Foxx himself, the sitcom character's efforts to break into entertainment fail, and he must work for his aunt and uncle in their Los Angeles hotel.
The Silver Screen and Continuing Success
As his television career was flourishing, Foxx began taking on minor roles in movies, such as the 1996 romantic comedy The Truth about Cats & Dogs. His first starring role was in 1997's Booty Call, a raunchy comedy about the sexual misadventures of two couples out on a double date. In 1999 Foxx moved from comedy to drama as the star of Any Given Sunday, a football movie by controversial Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone. Foxx played Willie Beamen, an obscure 26-year-old quarterback who is unexpectedly handed one last chance for glory in the National Football League (NFL) after two other players are injured. In a 1999 article on Any Given Sunday in Jet, Foxx was quoted as saying that the movie "deals with racism in the league, sexism in the league. It deals with politics, money, drugs and women. It's an Oliver Stone film, so it's very probing. You discover a lot." Foxx's performance in Any Given Sunday was followed in 2000 by starring roles in two action-comedies, Held Up, in which he played a kidnapped businessman, and Bait, where his character was a petty thief who unwittingly becomes entangled in the aftermath of a multimillion-dollar gold heist.
Hard-Working Actor and Comedian
Hard work has been a hallmark of Foxx's career right from the start, when he was doing stand-up seven days a week in L.A.'s comedy clubs. Among other acting roles, he also appeared with Tom Cruise in the 2004 release, Collateral, playing a cab driver who transports hit-man Cruise around Los Angeles. Directed by Michael Mann, Collateral was a critical and popular success, setting the stage for the greatest triumph of Foxx's career: the release of Ray. In addition to his Academy Award, Ray netted Foxx a Golden Globe and an Image Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Black Entertainment Television also honored Foxx's acclaimed performance with a BET Award. Later in 2005, Foxx starred in the films Stealth and Jarhead.
In 2006 Foxx shared the BET Award for best collaboration and video of the year with Kanye West for Gold Digger. He also starred in Miami Vice, a reboot of the popular 1980s television series of the same name, and released a solo album, Unpredictable, which won him the NAACP Image Award for best male musical artist. In Vogue the record's producer, Clive Davis, told Jonathan Van Meter that he normally did not sign actors "who fancy themselves singers," but that when he talked to Foxx about the album, "It became very evident that this was no actor dabbling in music. This was a music man. In every waking hour that he wasn't acting, he was with his music. I was very impressed."
Took on Varied Roles
Foxx has continued to showcase both his acting and his musical talents, appearing in diverse roles in major motion pictures. He played a government agent in 2007's politically charged action-thriller The Kingdom, then switched gears for the heart-wrenching portrayal of a mentally unstable and homeless but extremely talented musician in 2009's The Soloist. In 2010 Foxx shared a Grammy Award with T-Pain for best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocals, while taking the stage for a live performance T-Pain, Slash, and Doug E. Fresh. The following year saw Foxx star in the hit summer comedy Horrible Bosses, while his song "Blame It (On the Alcohol)," which he and his collaborators performed at the 2010 Grammy Awards, was covered on an episode of the popular television sitcom Glee.
Foxx made a strong return to the big screen in 2012 as the star of director Quentin Tarantino"s Django Unchained. In the film, Foxx played a slave who unexpectedly gets the opportunity to shed his chains and rescue his wife from the clutches of a sadistic Southern plantation owner. Django Unchained proved to be a critical and popular success and Foxx's performance garnered him considerable praise.
Foxx continued to earn film roles throughout 2013 and 2014. He appeared in White House Down in 2013. The following year, he lent his voice to the animated film Rio 2. Also in 2014, he appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Horrible Bosses 2, and Annie, which was a film adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name.
Foxx followed up his musical role with a crime thriller in 2017. In Sleepless he portrays a police officer searching for his kidnapped son. Foxx also starred in the 2017 film Baby Driver. He portrayed Little John in a 2018 version of Robin Hood.
Foxx took on an iconic television character in 2019. He portrayed George Jefferson in Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's 'All in the Family' and 'The Jeffersons," which aired on May 22. Foxx, in his role as the comically self-important family patriarch, stumbled on a line during the live broadcast. He broke the fourth wall by speaking to the studio audience before moving on. His flub and recovery left cast mates in stitches.
He started 2020 with the legal drama Just Mercy. It is based on the true story of Walter McMillian, who has been convicted of murder. McMillian, portrayed by Foxx, is defended by attorney Bryan Stevenson, portrayed by Michael B. Jordan. Foxx was recognized by the Screen Actors Guild with a nomination for the award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a supporting role.
Born Eric Bishop, December 13, 1967, in Terrell, TX; son of Shaheed Abdulah (a stockbroker) and Louise Annette Dixon (a homemaker); children: Corrine. Education: Attended U.S. International University, San Diego, CA. Addresses: Home--Los Angeles, CA.
Briefly worked as a shoe salesman. Stand-up comic based in Los Angeles, CA, since 1990. Tours as a stand-up comic throughout the United States. Film appearances include Toys, 1992; The Truth about Cats & Dogs, 1996; The Great White Hype, 1996; Booty Call, 1997; The Players Club, 1998; Any Given Sunday, 1999; Held Up, 2000; Bait, 2000; Ali, 2001; Collateral, 2004; Ray, 2004; Stealth, 2005, Jarhead, 2005; Miami Vice, 2006; Dreamgirls, 2006; The Kingdom, 2007; The Soloist, 2009; Law Abiding Citizen, 2009; Valentine's Day, 2010; Due Date, 2010; Horrible Bosses, 2011; Django Unchained, 2012; White House Down, 2013; Rio 2, 2014 (voice); The Amazing Spider-Man 2, 2014; A Million Ways to Die in the West, 2014; Horrible Bosses 2, 2014; and Annie, 2014; Sleepless, 2017; Baby Driver, 2017; Robin Hood, 2018; Just Mercy, 2020. Television appearances include Roc, 1991; In Living Color, 1991-94; Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, 1992; Straight from the Foxxhole, 1993 (one-hour special); C Bear and Jamal, 1996 (voice); The Jamie Foxx Show, 1996-2001; Moesha, 1996; The Roseanne Show, 1998; Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story, 2004; Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear's 'All in the Family' and 'The Jeffersons," 2019. Co-creator and co-producer of, and actor in, The Jamie Foxx Show, 1996-2001. Released debut song album, Peep This, Twentieth Century Fox Records, 1994; released Unpredictable, 2005; released Intuition, 2008; released Best Night of My Life, 2010; released Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses, 2015.
Black Bay Area Comedy Competition, 1991; Image Award, NAACP, 1998, 2002, 2005, 2006; Black Reel Award, for Ali, 2002; Academy Award and Golden Globe award for best actor in Ray, 2005; BET Award, Black Entertainment Television, 2005, 2006; Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2007; Grammy Award for best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocals, shared with T-Pain, 2010; MTV Generation Award, 2013; BET Award for best actor for Django Unchained, 2013.
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