Entertainment - Film
How Jamie Foxx Learnt To Move Like A Vampire Hunter For Day Shift
In new movie Day Shift Jamie Foxx takes on a bewildering array of vampires, combining homemade body braun with training in fist combat and martial arts.
Underpinning the fitness required for the role was his structured eating plan, home workouts and faith in God, he tells RSNG.com.
Fitness Foxx’s Way
From humble beginnings playing piano as a young Baptist in small-city Texas, to becoming one of the most treasured performers in the world today, Jamie Foxx is a remarkable man.
While humour and sex appeal have always provided the main building blocks for the actor, singer and comedian’s popularity, his current role as a vampire-slaying father on the mean, blood-soaked streets of California, has provided an interesting diversion into strength.
“I’ve always looked after myself and I’ve always taken pride in staying fit, though it’s not necessarily until you do a movie like this that you realize how out of shape you are!” laughs the 54-year-old Texan.
“My gym routine in the past has always been about doing my own thing in my own time and my own way, and that’s just about done it for me.
“I’ve not wanted much more than to be fit, to feel good and to look good, although I do accept that the older you get the harder that gets.”
A New Take On The Vampire Concept
And yet the JJ Perry-directed film Day Shift has changed all of that. In a plot that switches between the sublime and the ridiculous, Foxx’s character Bud Jablonski and sidekick Big John Elliott [Snoop Dogg] are charged with ridding the city of an increasing number of blood-thirsty demons. While in past vampiric dramas the likes of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart have undertaken their plasma pleasures with barely a dropkick to disturb them, things are rather different with Foxx around.
“The training for the movie was like nothing I’d done before,” he admits. “While there’s obviously a fair bit of CGI and special effects, it seems those special effects didn’t stretch to a stunt double, so for a number of scenes I was doing my own moves!
“To be honest, I am glad of this. I am an actor who wants to invest as much of himself as possible in a project, and I have never felt in better shape as the result of a film role, so this one has been really good for me.”
Foxx was put through his paces by the same artillery expert who enabled Keanu Reeves to hit top billing as John Wick. Taran Butler is one of the top shooters on the circuit, and has 13 national championship titles to his name. And his proficiency with weaponry means he has been called up to work with a number of leading stars.
Surprisingly, Butler was the only trainer Foxx employed for the project. The actor famously doesn’t have his own personal trainer, and up until recently insisted he turns down serious weight work for pull-ups, push-ups and stretches.
“I don’t need a big regimented plan,” says Foxx. “I am here to give hope and encouragement to the guy in the street who gets done what he gets done… and at times doesn’t get sh*t done,” he laughs.
“Like the rest of us, schedules and commitments dictate that there needs to be a degree of flexibility in routines and sessions.
“There’s also the fact that someone may be working away without access to a gym, or equipment, or whatever it is. All this stuff needs to be factored in, and the more mobile the plan is, the more likely that person is to stick with it.”
Church Or Gym?
Foxx certainly relied on the ability to switch elements depending on workload on a certain day. “I have myself down as a realist when it comes to exercise – I want to do it and I need to do it, but I also know I have commitments on every day of the week, to work and to my family, and whatever I do needs to fit in with everything else.
“I don’t believe you will find a more committed person than me to getting a job done – I just might do it in a different timeframe or order to someone else.”
Even Foxx’s faith in God played a part in determining some of his ability to stick to his aim of being in the best possible shape. “I asked God if he would rather see me in church or in the gym, and I got his answer,” he laughs. “In truth, I will always start the day at the gym or by exercising in the house. It’s the way I wake up.”
Foxx also swears by the same protein-laden breakfast; mixes protein, veg and carbs at lunch; and repeats the trick, minus the carbs, for dinner.
“I don’t need too many carbs to see me through the morning session,” he says. “I”ve never been one of those people who can’t function without carbs – I always feel like I’ve got enough in reserve.”
Perry: Three Decades Of Stunts
And yet, any movie featuring JJ Perry is going to build itself around punishing stunts and unrelenting fight choreography, even if this is his first in the director’s chair. From F9 to John Wick, The Dark Tower to S.W.A.T., the stunt visionary is one of the industry’s greatest exemplars of the raw, bloody action genre, albeit in actual combat, on-screen.
The inspiration is over three decades committed to martial arts – he began training in 1975 and moved into stunt work in the 1980s when he left the army.
He is a 5th-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, a 2nd-degree on Hapkido and has experience with all kinds of weapons, as well as being adept at riding rodeo and bikes.
“The contortion is one thing that really stands out in this movie,” says Foxx of Day Shift, which came equipped with a $100 million budget. “The vampires deconstruct into some of the most f*cked up shapes and poses you have ever seen, but a lot of the training for me featured similar movements and motions, and I was discovering new parts of my body on every attempt.
“Naturally a lot of our training was inspired by Loco [JJ Perry], and fixated on the core, but our workouts would also bring about lifts, presses, a lot of stretching and the refining of muscle mass.
“It’s not often you sign up to what is essentially a shoot-‘em-up movie, but find yourself undergoing a really punishing physical schedule in order to get you to where you need to be.”
Laughing His Way To The Big Time
Foxx, born Eric Marlon Bishop, got his big break in the comedy clubs of Terrell, Texas. “I never felt nervous because the first time I was ever at a comedy club was when they had an open mic night where anyone could just go up and tell some jokes,” he says. “I was watching one guy up there and I thought: ‘If he can get up there and bomb like you’ve never seen before, then maybe I could actually try this out myself!’
“In truth, I didn’t really care. I was getting up in front of a room full of people, yeah, but 99 per cent of them probably didn’t know me and at that point, I felt they would never see me again. And if I was to bomb out myself just like the last guy did, then that was also cool because I wasn’t trying to earn a contract or anything.”
But he didn’t bomb, and and 1991, buoyed by his success, Foxx joined the cast of Black American comedy sketch show In Living Color, rubbing shoulders with the Wayans family and numerous other notable black comedians such as David Alan Grier and Tommy Davidson. The show gave the emerging star a prime-time showcase.
The plaudits came thick and fast. Foxx’s first film role came quickly in the 1992 Robin Williams comedy/fantasy vehicle Toys, and by 1996 he had his own sitcom – The Jamie Foxx Show – which ran for five years in the US. In the meantime, he’d moved into drama too with Oliver Stone’s star-studded American football story, Any Given Sunday.
Via ever-more blockbusting movies – Collateral with Tom Cruise, Ali with Will Smith, superhero villain Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the titular freed slave on a rescue mission in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, and his Academy Award-winning portrayal of talented but troubled musician Ray Charles in Ray – Foxx hadn’t just found his feet but rather stood on more solid ground than many of his contemporaries (with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to prove it).
“There’s something about working in the entertainment industry that makes you feel alive, and that’s almost the same feeling as the rush you get after a big workout.
“Some projects give you more satisfaction than others, but certainly working with Snoop provided lots of entertainment,” he says, returning to Day Shift. “The guy is a cultural legend the world over, yet he’s never lost his sense of calm and humility.
“He is perfect evidence of respecting the past but looking forward and embracing the next chapter. It’s the easiest thing to achieve when you think of it like that… just keep moving forward, keep believing.”
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