We're on the Brooklyn, New York, set of the short film he's directing for Canon's Project Imaginat10n and there is no doubt that he's in charge. But it's a casual environment ― from the fact that he's running around in jeans, an Adidas zip-up top, and untied white sneakers to how he's playfully singing to a young woman seated behind him in between takes and walking around with a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.
It's not to say that the 45-year-old Academy Award-winning actor isn't taking the job, as one of five celebrity influencers directing short films under the tutelage of Ron Howard, seriously. He is, but he just doesn't take it, or himself, too seriously.
"How am I as a boss? I'm cool," Foxx says in a way that makes us immediately believe him. "I'm not the guy who will probably make the billion dollars because I don't have that DNA. I'm more of the cool dude. We get as much as we can done while we can."
The star of "White House Down," which opens June 28, and the upcoming "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" (both of which likely offered him lucrative paydays) is also the dude who, during a break in shooting, goes outside, crosses the street, and poses for photos with some starstruck NYC Department of Sanitation workers. And the dude who is totally down for a dance-off with one of the young stars of the movie.
"It just helps the day go better," Foxx explains of the fun environment he's created on the set and one can tell also spills over into his real life. "It keeps up morale because we ask people to do a lot of things in a short period of time."
As for that dance-off, well, that's something else entirely. "He was trying to challenge me so I had to let him know," he says with a boyish grin.
Our set visit takes place the final day of shooting the short film, which was created based on 10 user-submitted photographs, and we get to watch a beautiful scene featuring his "Django Unchained" co-star Nichole Galicia and Tyrin Turner, whom he worked with in "Menace II Society," playing a bride and groom. Foxx pays strict attention to detail down to the wedding dress she's wearing, which is short in the front and long in the back ― a stylistic decision he made to show off the bride's shoes. He jokes that if the look, which is widely admired by the females on the set, becomes a bridal trend off-screen after the movie comes out this fall at a Project Imaginat10n film festival, he wants credit for it.
Foxx has certainly worked with a number of great directors during his career, and when asked which of them he's culled tips and advice from for this project, it's like a Who's Who list.
"I think it's a combination of all the people I have worked with from Oliver Stone, Taylor Hackford, F. Gary Gray, Sam Mendes, Quentin Tarantino … I just picked up things along the way. This is all just great directors rubbing off on me," he shares.
And, of course, the star is especially fond of Ron Howard.
"Ron and I met each other at the 2008 inauguration and hit it off. Then we did the ‘Blame It’ video together," he says referring to the Oscar-winning director and onetime "Happy Days" star's surprising cameo in Foxx's music video. (If you haven't seen it, watch it — it's pretty awesome.) "Then for this, it's been fantastic because he has great enthusiasm as a person who has been at it for a long time. Being able to have his mentorship has really been great."
Although they are friends, Foxx even sounds a little starstruck himself when he talks about Howard's surprise visit to the set to see how the filming was going.
"It was great," he smiles. "Everybody was surprised, but so happy, too. It was as though he blessed our set. Hopefully that made everybody up the ante. We really want to get it right."
We also ask Foxx about another of his close bonds ― the one with his college-age daughter, Corrine Bishop, who became a bit of celebrity herself this past awards season when she accompanied him to several red carpet events. He recently teamed up with TNT to develop a show that will be about the type of father-daughter relationship they share.
"She's so beautiful and cool and laid back and just enjoying life," the proud dad says. "That's what you hope for with your kids. You hope that they can enjoy life and then create their own."
Will she one day follow in his footsteps in the acting biz?
"I'm not sure, but she's a very smart girl. You always hope for the best with your children. And hopefully I'll always be there to help her out."
And probably remind her not to take things too seriously.
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