In what is already shaping up to be a fierce competition in the lead and supporting male acting categories, Jordan and Foxx just entered the race with the world premiere of their new real-life drama “Just Mercy” at the Toronto Film Festival.
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The film, written and directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, is based on attorney Bryan Stevenson’s early work providing legal aid to prisoners in Alabama. Jordan stars as Stevenson while Foxx plays one of his first clients, Walter McMillian, a man who spent six years on death row for a murder he didn’t commit. Stevenson successfully argued before the Alabama Supreme Court that prosecutors not only mishandled the case but also convinced another inmate to testify against McMillian with the promise of lessening his sentence.
The Warner Bros film received at least two rounds of applause during the screening at Roy Thomson Hall and another four as the credits rolled. Many in the audience were heard sniffling and searching for tissues throughout the movie.
“Are you alright?” one woman said to a friend as they walked out of the theater with their arms wrapped around each other.
Another group of friends raved about Jordan’s performance. “This brings him to another level,” one man said.
“It’s the most incredible project you could ever be a part of,” Foxx told reporters on the red carpet, adding, “They tested it for an all-black audience. It tested at a 97. They tested it for an all-white audience and it tested it at 98. So it lets you know that people are ready to see it and feel it.”
There’s no reason that wide appeal shouldn’t extend to Academy voters.
Foxx earned an Oscar in 2005 for his starring role as Ray Charles in “Ray.” He was also nominated that same year for supporting actor in “Collateral.” Michael B. Jordan hasn’t scored an Oscar nomination just yet, but he picked up several honors for his breakout role in “Fruitvale Station” and his work in 2015’s “Creed” as well last year’s mega-Marvel hit “Black Panther.”