Toronto Flashback: Jamie Foxx Hit a High Note at TIFF With ‘Ray’

Jamie Foxx’s visit to Toronto in 2004 set him on an awards trajectory that resulted in his winning the best actor Oscar five months later for Ray, director Taylor Hackford’s biopic of the rhythm and blues legend Ray Charles. As Roger Ebert presciently noted in a festival dispatch: “Jamie Foxx is another actor who will emerge … trailing clouds of glory. He won a standing ovation for his virtuoso performance.”

Foxx, who met with Charles before the film went into production, said the musician gave his blessing to a warts-and-all portrayal. “He said, ‘Look, man, tell the story. If you don’t tell the story, it’s not going to be interesting,’ ” Foxx explained to JazzTimes magazine during the fest. “Nobody wants to see a movie that’s, like, ‘Ooh, Ray, you were so good all your life because you were blind.’ You want to see the serious decisions he had to make in order to keep his life going. He had a career that lasted over 50 years. There were certain things he had to do. But he was still a man, and was fractured in some sense with the drugs and the women.” (Charles died in June 2004, three months before the film’s Toronto premiere.)

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Foxx also took time to enjoy the TIFF party scene. When Kevin Spacey, coming from a screening of his Bobby Darin movie Beyond the Sea, showed up at a late-night celebration for Ray, “Spacey … grabbed the mike and started singing the Darin standby ‘Splish Splash,’ accompanied by Foxx, an accomplished pianist,” reported “Before it was over, both Spacey and Foxx had jumped up on the piano, where they belted out the rest of the song together.”

At this year’s fest, Foxx will likely strike a different note in Maggie Betts’ courtroom drama, The Burial, from Amazon. He plays a flamboyant personal-injury lawyer who takes on the case of a funeral home owner (Tommy Lee Jones) fighting a corporate takeover of his family business.

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