(Photo: David James/Paramount
They say that "the devil is in the details." Whenever Curtis Taylor, Jr., looks at them -- "them" being the likes of Effie White, James Early and Deena Jones (and the movie-going audience) -- they in turn see the devil staring them right in the face. And as you watch Jamie Foxx play this slippery car dealer-turned music manager and producer of James "Thunder" Early and The Dreamettes, you can't help but despise him. Which means of course that Foxx, the 2005 Academy Awards' Best Actor winner, has done his job very well. Mr. Foxx had just finished filming "Miami Vice" in late 2005, several months after his Oscar triumph for "Ray" (2004). He went into "Dreamgirls" according to published reports, with some trepidation -- not about whether he could ace the slippery snake-oil charm and ice-coldness of Curtis Taylor -- but whether he would be adequately compensated for the role as a newly-minted Oscar winner. The negotiations went, and within short order, Foxx got the green light that money of an actor of his stature commanded, and soon after that in early January 2006, it was off to work with "Dreamgirls" director Bill Condon for several months.
Curtis Taylor has money and power and the trust of the three ladies (aka The Dreams). At first however, he is an unpolished stone still trying to gather steam as he prepares to carve out a music empire for himself. As Mr. Foxx explains, "Curtis is a rough-edged kind of guy who is trying to get in to the music business. He just wishes that he could have sung better, could have written better music, could have played some type of instrument, but he can't." You get a sense that Foxx is channeling the frustration of his character's past shortcomings as he climbs the ladder of deviousness and slick-trickery. Curtis Taylor is the classic villain and does what he has to to succeed. Still, Foxx declares that the anything-goes-risk-it-at-all costs attitude of Curtis " . . . comes with a curse for [the character] -- on some level he wishes it was him out there. He's working every angle until he finds an opening."
As Curtis, Foxx doesn't just find an opening. He tears right through, leaving an indelible mark on both the characters around him in "Dreamgirls", as well as the film's audience. The director however, does not see Curtis as all bad, by any stretch of the imagination. "I think of Curtis as someone who is addicted to dreams . . . as soon as he accomplishes one thing, he's on to the next one." The truth about Curtis is that he also does have a warmer side to him. When he sings to Deena the song "When I First Saw You", all of those things come out -- which were not previously -- or at least so obviously -- on display.
Foxx's career has moved from films like "Booty Call" to films like "Any Given Sunday", "Redemption" (the cable television film), "Ali", and "Collateral". Along the way he has become A-list quality, in a relatively short time. He has credited both Al Pacino and Oliver Stone for showing him the craft of acting and conveying to him the seriousness of performing on film. Pacino and Stone starred in and directed "Sunday" respectively, with Foxx giving a highly-commended performance as brash upstart quarterback Willie Beamon. The film, which was released in 1999, also starred Cameron Diaz.
Jamie Foxx continues to win raves for his work. He diversifies his acting roles -- lead and supporting roles -- and mixes things up a great deal. He has received lots of advice from Denzel Washington, someone that actors would obviously listen to and take seriously. Mr. Washington's credentials need no mention, and prior to Foxx's Oscar win, he advised Mr. Foxx to keep striding in the right direction and walk tall, as people were watching him.
And once again, Foxx walks tall in "Dreamgirls", even if he is "steppin' to the bad side."
-- Omar P.L. Moore
BEYONCE EDDIE MURPHY JENNIFER HUDSON DANNY GLOVER
originally published on December 12, 2006