Actor, singer, comedian and chat-show treasure: Is Jamie Foxx Hollywood's most underappreciated star?

The quadruple threat might have starred in a series of flops since 'Ray', but no one gives him quite enough credit for his talent as an all-round entertainer

epa07955294 US actor Jamie Foxx poses on the red carpet prior the 11th Annual Governors Awards at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California, USA, 27 October 2019.  EPA-EFE/NINA PROMMER
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What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the name Jamie Foxx? 

It's most likely to be his startlingly authentic performance as Ray Charles in the 2004 biopic Ray, which not only landed him a Best Actor Oscar, but also a Bafta, Screen Actors Guild Award, Critics’ Choice Movie Award and Golden Globe.

Foxx was also nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for 2004 film Collateral, making him one of only 12 actors to have been nominated for two Oscars at the same ceremony.

But Foxx is a man of many, many talents. For one, he's as proficient a musician and comedian as he is a dramatic actor. He has produced four of his own albums, collaborated with the likes of Kanye West, TI and The Black Eyed Peas, and was awarded a Grammy for his performance on RnB track Blame It with T-Pain. Plus, he was the lead in his own highly rated sitcom, The Jamie Foxx Show, in the 1990s, and has performed three stand-up comedy specials. 

The man is an all-round entertainer. A modern-day Frank Sinatra who not only immediately draws your attention, but knows exactly what to do with it, whether he’s leading a film, starring in a TV show, singing or telling a joke. Forget a triple threat, Foxx is a quadruple threat.

So why, then, does it feel as though he is underappreciated and someone who has failed to reach his full potential? Since cinema is still the most dominant medium in pop culture and the easiest way to define a celebrity's rank, his mediocre film choices since Ray have undoubtedly contributed to his perceived malaise. 

On the face of it, Foxx has made all the right movie moves. He has starred as a villain in a superhero blockbuster (The Amazing Spider-Man 2), in huge action thrillers (Law Abiding Citizen and White House Down), a remake of a beloved musical (Annie), a reboot (Miami Vice) and even a Quentin Tarantino film (Django Unchained). The problem is, upon their release, each of these films was disappointing in its own unique way, while Foxx was either underused or misused in them.

His latest endeavour, Netflix’s Project Power, which hit the platform on Friday, focuses on a pill that results in its takers experiencing five minutes of superhero powers.

It should also be noted that Foxx has had to endure quite a few flops in his time, too, with Stealth, Jarhead, The Kingdom, The Soloist, Sleepless and Robin Hood all bombing at the box office. 

This image released by Netflix shows Jamie Foxx, left, and Dominique Fishback in a scene from "Project Power." The film, streaming Friday, imagines a world where a pill can give temporary superpowers. (Skip Bolen/Netflix via AP)
Jamie Foxx, left, and Dominique Fishback in a scene from 'Project Power'. AP

Even when Foxx starred in the 2017 critically acclaimed Baby Driver, not only was he part of a much larger ensemble that shared the credit, but Edgar Wright’s rhythmic action delight still only made $226.9 million (Dh833.4m) worldwide. Off a budget of $34m, that’s a great return. But in an era when most blockbusters have to make at least double that to even be regarded as average, it ultimately didn’t come close to registering with a mainstream audience. 

Foxx’s highest-grossing movie is The Amazing Spider-Man 2. But even its return of $709m is still the lowest haul for a live-action Spider-Man film, and it was ultimately deemed such a disappointment that Andrew Garfield was dumped as the superhero and replaced by Tom Holland, whose Peter Parker promptly joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

But throughout this, Foxx has remained an A-list celebrity. The general consensus is that he clearly has the skills to replicate his mesmerising work in Ray, and that it's only a matter of time before he does so. In the meantime, it helps that Foxx has turned into a truly incredible celebrity. This is most apparent with his talk show appearances – he is always impeccably dressed, captivating, hilarious and ready to dish out an imperious impression at a moment's notice. Put simply, he comes across as a person that you'd love to spend an evening with. 

The perfect example is his appearance on The Graham Norton Show in June 2017. Even though he was sharing the couch with comedians Kristen Wiig and Steve Carell, as well as Dame Judi Dench, Foxx told three short, sharp, hilarious and self-deprecating anecdotes that had everyone enraptured. These included inviting an undiscovered Ed Sheeran to sleep on his couch for six weeks, begrudgingly singing a soon-to-be No 1 song for Kanye West, and being told off by his daughter for dating much younger women. 

Foxx is as personable and entertaining a storyteller whenever he appears on the likes of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Breakfast Club with Charlamagne tha God, too.

Merely his description of the planned opening scene for his new Mike Tyson biopic, which he is currently extensively training for, managed to beguile and excite when he described it all the way back in 2015.

“The camera is high, but not as high as the heavens, just above the trees, and it’s snaking through New York,” he said. Even this was more poetic than your typical actor promo fare. It might have even aided the film’s quest for financing.

These skills seem so natural to Foxx that it would be easy to dismiss how hard it is to constantly be interviewed and actually have something genuinely fascinating to say. Which makes it all the more impressive that, after 25 years, Foxx’s responses are only getting better. It’s just a shame that the movies he’s talking about aren’t. 

Let’s see if Project Power, Foxx’s grounded attempt at a superhero movie, changes all that.