Who would have guessed that Jamie Foxx would opt to not play a hero in his first outing in a superhero movie? Instead in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, he plays Max Dillon, an uber-nerd, electrical genius working for Oscorp (who doesn't in the Spider-Man universe?), who is slightly obsessed with Spider-Man, especially after Spidey singles out Max during a major action sequence and calls the comb-over-wearing Dillon his "go-to guy." After a severe industrial accident, Dillon is transformed into Electro, a living, breathing battery that can expel and drain electricity from any source. He also glows blue, which looks pretty sweet, and already on unstable ground mentally, he turns on Spider-Man as one of his most dangerous adversaries.
If you were a fan of sketch comedy in the early '90s, then your first exposure to Foxx's work was probably "In Living Color," where Foxx come the closest of any cast member to capture the same type of heat Eddie Murphy did over on "Saturday Night Live" years earlier. He seemed destined for greatness, and moved on to his own television series, "The Jamie Foxx Show" for five seasons, while taking supporting roles in films like THE TRUTH ABOUT CATS AND DOGS, THE GREAT WHITE HYPE, THE PLAYER'S CLUB, and even lead role in comedies like BOOTY CALL, HELD UP and BAIT.
But it was his work in the Oliver Stone football drama ANY GIVEN SUNDAY where the tide toward dramatic work seemed to go in Foxx's favor, and before long he was starring in film's like Michael Mann's COLLATERAL and MIAMI VICE, Sam Mendes' JARHEAD, DREAMGIRLS, and Peter Berg's THE KINGDOM. But it was 10 years ago that Foxx inhabited the role of Ray Charles in RAY and won every award on the planet for it, including an Oscar. At this point in his career, the man can write his own ticket and keep on switching lanes from comedy (DUE DATE, HORRIBLE BOSSES), drama (THE SOLOIST), action (WHITE HOUSE DOWN, and even Westerns (DJANGO UNCHAINED); you'll even see him in another musical (ANNIE) before the year is done. And now he's made the move to super-powered villain under the direction of the returning Marc Webb, which is what we discussed recently in New York City. Please enjoy my brief chat with Jaime Foxx…
Capone: Hello, sir. How are you? I’m Steve, good to meet you.
Jamie Foxx: Good to see you, Steve.
Capone: So you opted for the Electro with no lightening-bolt headpiece. Were you disappointed about that?
JF: [laughs] No, you know what? When people say it, I think for this type of film, it would have taken it somewhere else. It would have been sort of a little too strange.
Capone: The comb-over is fine, but the headpiece is too much?
JF: When you put it that way…. When you look at the Ultimate Spider Man [comic book series], Electro was blue, even when you watch it on a cartoon. So it makes sense in that respect. But you know what? I tell people all the time this isn’t the original. He’s really not Electro yet. He’s just finding himself. So if they were to do SINISTER SIX, and if I were to be involved in that, you never know if you put the great minds together, we could figure out a way to do that green suit, but do it in a way that makes sense.
Capone: Max might be the most insecure, unconfident villain that’s ever existed. He’s so broken. And that's in a film where a lot of the people are--Harry, Peter, Max. The fact that he would want revenge on Spider-Man for the reason seems to be a clear sign of mental illness. Can you just talk a little bit about playing a guy like that?
JF: And some of the scenes were cut out that showed even more how deeply screwed up he was. There was a scene with his mom forgetting his birthday.
Capone: I hope we get to see that at some point.
JF: And also what was cut out was him going back [to see his mom after becoming Electro]. See, he doesn’t go see Spider-Man in the script. What happens is he goes to his mom and says, “Mom, something's happened to me. I don’t know what it is.” So the same speech that he’s giving to Spider-Man in Times Square, he’s having it with his mom. “There’s so much going on. I don’t know what’s going on.” “Boy, what’s wrong with you?” And she doesn’t understand it, and she gets angry. And he’s like, “Mom, just listen.” And he holds onto her, and he electrocutes her, and she dies. And then what happens is someone across the way sees that and then he becomes public enemy number one. So those things that were cut out. And then he runs into Spider-Man, after they’ve been chasing him.
Capone: That seems so critical, killing his mother. That's a huge deal.
JF: They didn’t want to because kids are going to see this.
Capone: I get it. The place of Spider-Man in popular culture is immeasurable, really. Did you have any connection with the character before getting involved with this? You are probably every day discovering new ways in which it’s bigger than you'd imagined.
JF: It is bigger than I'd imagined. You go to Malaysia, Singapore, Tokyo, and Beijing, and you see all these kids dressed as Spider-Man, and they run up to you, and I’m in Rome, and they’re in the streets. It’s bigger than I could possibly imagine. And they look at it through a completely different lens then we do, because we look at it though an artistic or critical or whatever it is; they just come out smiling and just jazzed up and want to be Max and Spider-Man or Green Goblin. It’s just amazing how the franchise, the tentacles, can reach out and touch such a vast majority of people. As far as Spider-Man, I watched "The Electric Company" back in the day, and Spider-Man would come on in between. I was like, “Aw man. That’s cool.” You'd run outside with your web. “Mom, I got a web.” “You ain’t got no web. Shit! Sit your ass down in the back of that car.” [laughs] So, it’s a trip to see where it’s gone to now, and that was 38 years ago.
Capone: Yeah, we’re probably about the same age. I remember that.
JF: Yeah, 46.
Capone: The look of Electro in this is a really seamless combination of practical make up and CGI put on top of that. Did I read the KNB guys did the makeup?
JF: Howard Berger, yes. Imagine a vat of blue candle wax, and they just dipped me in it, and now I got blue silicon all over. But basically that’s a canvas, like if you’re shooting up against a green screen? It’s a blue screen on me. And so that’s how they dialed it all in. So it’s interesting because you can’t see the actual blue. People go, “What is that? Is that real? Is it really him? Is it all CGI?” But it’s actually me and just a blue screen.
Capone: I remember when those paparazzi pictures came out, and like you could see the blue, and I know I was thinking, "I know it’s not going to look like that when we finally see it." And then the real pictures started coming out, and we got a sense of what it was going to look like. I liked the scene too, the initial transformation scene, where he breaks out of that whatever is encrusted over him. What was that exactly? Did his body just burn away, and the energy creature is what was left?
JF: Probably his body, like his body burned and that was his outer shell. You know, like if you burn some bread in the stove. That was his flesh!
Capone: When you first say yes to doing this film, and then the powers that be just send you all of the background material that they think you need. What do you remember about getting that stuff, and what did you discover about this character that intrigued you?
JF: Yeah, what’s funny is I already knew about Max Dillon. When they said Electro, I was like, “Oh, shit. That’s Max.” And so for me, you read through all of the stuff, and it’s all fantastic, but to play the character, I wanted to concentrate on Max. When you get into the CGI of what Electro is going to be, that’s almost out of your hands. But Max is the one thing I could really control, and I thought if we really nailed Max, that people would really understand where he was coming from, even with the scenes deleted, they would understand that Max being that smart guy, that electrician, you empathize. You see him, and some of the ladies would go, “Oh, I really felt that Max was so sweet and sad.” That’s what we wanted to do was give him a starting point of innocence.
And then a little bit of mania; he's a little off. Like when he sees Spider Man, he’s like, “Spider-Man make me a cake.” Spider-Man isn’t going to make you a fucking cake. Who does that? When you really think about it like, what are you doing? Even a little bit of "what I want to say but won’t say," like when he gets to his job, and the guy says, “Yeah, sure you did. And I'm Spider-Man.” And Max says, “Spider-Man’s a Leo; you’re a Sagittarius.” And we had a little bit of that with the mom scene, but that’s what I call practical real estate, so that before you put any CGI or anything on it, you get a chance to feel what that person is without any of the smoke and mirrors.
Capone: Superhero films and comic book fans, they will put you under a microscope--every aspect of every one of these superhero movies. Have you already started to see signs of that, and are you prepared for that kind of scrutiny?
JF: You know what? No, I haven't seen it. What’s weird is, we haven’t had any of that. You have to do two things. You’ve got to pay attention to the fans, and then you’ve got to not pay attention to it. You've got to make sure that you don’t leave them empty, but you also gotta know that you have got to open it up. There may be somebody out there who hasn’t seen, and you have to entertain everyone. If this has been around for 50 years, there has to be something that you have to change, switch, or maneuver. You’re not going to be able to please everybody.
But Andrew and Emma, they put the work in. They put the hard work in on the first one. “How dare you do this?” And they also said that Christian Bale wouldn’t be a good Batman. What I’ve learned too is, you don’t get your name in the paper unless you say something crazy. So a lot of times if you’re with it, “Oh I’m with it,” you’re with everybody else. But I gotta say, it will create something. So you got to just keep moving on, and as best you can, respect the art that you’re trying to get out there.
Capone: This is a film that’s going to lead to something else. Are you excited about being able to dig into a character and play him in a couple of films?
JF: If they were to allow me, I would love to because, like I said, there were things that I would love to go deeper in to. I come with a bible of stuff, and if I was able to come back and maybe we execute some of those ideas in another movie, but you never know.