Jamie Foxx Credits Former 'Django Unchained' Star Will Smith for His Acting Career: 'He Told Michael Mann, I've Got to Have That Guy'

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Jamie Foxx returns to the big screen this Christmas in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, in which he stars as the title character, a freed slave set on rescuing his wife from a bloodthirsty plantation owner (played by Leonardo DiCaprio).

Django is a plum role which Foxx is hoping will return him to Oscar glory after winning a statuette for Ray back in 2004. It’s also a role Foxx nearly lost to Will Smith.

“I didn’t find out about it until it was actually on the internet and it said, 'Will Smith to be slated to do Django',” Foxx told journalists.

When Smith dropped out due to scheduling conflicts, the role went to Foxx -- who promptly called the Men In Black actor, thanking him for the opportunity.

Foxx credits Smith for giving him a break in the industry back in 2001, when Smith pushed director Michael Mann to hire Foxx for the role of Muhammad Ali’s trainer, Bundini Brown, in Ali.

“He told Michael Mann, ‘I’ve got to have that guy,” Foxx recalled. “Michael Mann was like, ‘I don’t know who that guy is.’ So this is another way of him giving me an opportunity.”

In Django Unchained, Foxx's Django partners with bounty hunter King Schultz (Christoph Waltz). Their journey leads them to Candyland, a sprawling plantation owned by Calvin Candie, (Leonardo DiCaprio) whose favorite past time is pitting one slave against another in bloody fights to the death.

In his first meeting with Tarantino, Foxx talked about his upbringing in racially charged Terrell, Texas. “Me playing the piano, all the Christmas parties in the big white neighborhood,” Foxx reminisced. “And I was furniture, meaning that the people there were doing jokes about blacks.”

Foxx had high praise for costars Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio, who wowed his sister when she visited the set.

“Here’s the good looking guy that sometimes you see in the tabloids,” said Foxx. “But this guy comes to work, he knows everything - and even when he is off camera, still giving the performance.”

While most movies about slavery involve a white guy rescuing African-Americans, there’s often a moment where a slave is poised to exact bloody revenge but instead surrenders to his better nature.

“I should kill you but I won’t, and God wouldn’t like that,” is how Foxx explained the usual scenario. “This one is like, ‘I’m going to kill you in front of everybody.”

Can such an iconoclastic take on this dark chapter of American history garner Foxx his second Oscar? If so, he would be the first African-American to be twice honored for Best Actor.

“Well someone has to open that door,” smiled Foxx. “I call it ‘eating pizza.’ When you eat a pizza, do you say, ‘Wow, this is from Italy?’ Or do you just eat the pizza? So I wanted it to be where you were just eating a pizza, where if a black person is nominated, or an Hispanic person is nominated, or whatever it is, it’s just eating pizza. And hopefully someone doesn’t make something out of the pizza. If we could get to that, we are good.”

Watch the theatrical trailer for Django Unchained, and let us know what you think of the movie in the comments below!

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