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Jamie Foxx’s dead-on portrayal of Ray Charles got a thumbs up from someone much more influential than a prominent film critic, studio head or fellow actor. It was from the Genius, himself.
Both Foxx and the film got a ringing endorsement from the music legend, who gave the thesp a rigorous piano tryout on their first meeting and offered his blessing before passing away earlier this year.
Unfortunately, Charles isn’t around to see Oscar buzz build for Foxx, who many consider the front-runner for actor honors. The role includes such surefire Oscar bait as a disability, heroin addiction, discrimination and childhood trauma. All ingredients that have led many actors in years past to Oscar glory.
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Foxx, who prior to the release of “Ray” was riding the buzz from his work opposite Tom Cruise in “Collateral,” was in Method mode for the biopic, insisting on prosthetics for his eyes that rendered him blind during the shoot.
“I freaked out at first,” Foxx told Entertainment Weekly, “but I didn’t want to cheat.”
He also lost 30 pounds and — drawing on his own musical training — hit all the piano music cues in the film, although only Charles’ own playing is heard.
He spent time studying interviews and recordings of Charles to get all the mannerisms down pat — right down to the singer’s famous heroin twitch — rather than modeling himself on the Charles he had met. Director Taylor Hackford told Premiere magazine that Foxx’s rationalization was, ‘If I channel that guy, that’s 73 years old. That’s not the guy I’m playing.’ ”
Says Regina King, who portrayed Charles’ mistress and Raelette Margie Hendrix, “Jamie was always there and always into it, but between takes the prosthetics were over his eyes he would go back to being Jamie and telling a story about something that happened that weekend. On the set, he went in and out of being both Ray and Jamie like it wasn’t anything.
“But now, he still does some gestures that are just like Ray. I guess he was acting when he was being Jamie in between takes.”
“I’m just so happy that the project is out and it’s getting that type of buzz,” says Foxx. “It started out as just, maybe we’ll do this small movie and look at it now. It’s doing what we didn’t even imagine it to do.”