By STEVE PERSALL
Times Film Critic
Turns out that something actually can rattle Jamie Foxx, usually one of show biz's coolest customers.
Dude doesn't like flying through stormy weather on an airplane with mechanical troubles.
Foxx's telephone interview hyping his Blame It tour stop in Tampa was delayed for several hours when the Academy Award winning actor (Ray), platinum recording artist and Def comedian chose to fly friendlier skies to a Boston gig on a sturdier jet.
Foxx wishes he could have ducked out of the post-Oscar megaflop Stealth so easily. That $130 million bomb was a rare failure for Foxx, who bounced back with a streak of praised performances in Jarhead, Dreamgirls and The Soloist.
His third CD (counting 1994's Peep This), titled Intuition, made Foxx a certified R&B music star with the multiweek No. 1 hit, Blame It, featuring T-Pain. Collaborations with Kanye West, T.I. and Rascal Flatts among others reveal an artist mixing genres like gin and juice, with the same kick.
Foxx gets frisky and risky sometimes; scandalous remarks about Miley Cyrus led to a public apology, a nude photo recently surfaced on the Web, and former TV co-star Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon announced on The Wendy Williams Show that Foxx is a baby daddy for the second time.
Ten minutes of conversation monitored by Foxx's publicist began with a more recent issue:
I understand you had some travel troubles today.
Let me tell you. The lady was driving us on the little cart to get to the plane. She started going on about "sometimes celebrities die on a plane." You know, "Celebrities died in plane crashes on this date or that one." I said, whoa, whoa, whoa, should we be talking about this?
So, we get on the plane and the pilot comes on, saying: (in a P.A. system voice) "We have, uh, a little bit of a mechanical problem that, uh, we're checking out, the flaps and circuit breakers." I tapped the guy next to me and said let's go. We got off the plane right then. I have a rule that any maintenance problem with a plane, I get off immediately.
So, I get off the plane and everybody's, like: (whispers) "Where's Jamie Foxx going? He must know something." So everybody starts getting off the plane, changing flights. But we made it safely, bro.
What goes down in a Jamie Foxx concert?
I've always done standup comedy and a little music. Now I have the music for a real concert. So I go in with that: love music, party music. At the same time I have guest stars like (mimics Ray Charles): "Hey, y'all, tell everybody Ray Charles is in town. I'm gonna do what I do." Sometimes we'll have the president of the United States (as Barack Obama): "If there's any doubt . . . that . . . America . . . is the most incredible country in the world . . ."
So, we've got the jokes, got the music; at the end we "Blame It on the alcohol" and people leave feeling full. They get everything.
Any role models that taught you how to do what you do?
Growing up watching the Tom Jones show, watching Flip Wilson and Sammy Davis Jr., Donny and Marie, Captain and Tennille, it's something that's in my DNA. That's how I wanted to be on stage, going from a joke that is side-splittingly funny straight to a love song, and they both have integrity. That's what we've worked to develop for 20 years. Now we think we've got it licked.
That was obvious when you hosted BET's tribute to Michael Jackson. A few weeks down the road, what does that night mean to you?
I know how TV works; it's like an archive. We wanted to make something for the time capsule. When people look back on that show, they'll see that I wanted to keep it light and fun. So much was going to be said and done later about Michael Jackson, more of the controversy and the heavy, crazy stuff.
When you look at the BET show, it's fun. You see New Edition come out singing ABC, then I come out and try to moonwalk — which I hadn't done since 1986 — and I addressed the issue of him changing his face, and that we loved every look. It sort of counterbalanced what the media was doing.
We previously chatted 10 years ago, at the Any Given Sunday junket in L.A., when you were breaking out, eager and confident. What advice would today's Jamie Foxx give that younger version?
Oh, great question. I would tell him that the Internet is going to change the game, as far as how we see things, especially for a comedian. Things have changed to where we have to maintain our comedy license but we have to navigate certain things, like David Letterman having to apologize for a joke. Tell him to make people understand that whatever I do — successes or failures — will always be because I'm trying to entertain.
Other than that, I would tell him: Don't do the movie Stealth. Because you almost blew it, young man.
Steve Persall can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com/movies.