Since 2004’s one-two-punch of “Collateral” and “Ray” — the latter which won him a Best Actor Oscar — Jamie Foxx hasn’t had too many chances to cut loose. (For the record, he’s had small comic parts in “Horrible Bosses” and “Due Date.”) In “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” he gets to have fun — sort of. As Max Dillon, a frustrated and ignored scientist turned into the villain Electro, Foxx gets to play the villain, albeit a tragic one with a sympathetic genesis. However, if he comes back for future installments, Foxx can’t wait to go full-on bad.
What is your own history with Spider-Man?
There were only three networks when I was a kid. When “The Electric Company” came on, and Morgan Freeman was the host, they would play “Spider-Man” in between the educational stuff. I was blown away, because that’s the only time you see a superhero. There were no cartoons. You could only watch cartoons on Saturday — if you did your homework. You’d go outside and do your webs, or you’re in your car with your mom, saying, “Look, ma, my web.” “You ain’t got no web, shut up.”
Are your daughters into Spider-Man?
My daughter is three years old. She loves Spider-Man, out of nowhere. She can spell it. She trips people out on how she can spell it. And you don’t know where they get it from. Spider-Man’s just this thing.
Why do you think that is?
It’s like Coca-Cola. It’s like Nike. It’s like McDonald’s. Since it was introduced — 50 years ago — it hits you in a way that you can’t shake it. He’s in high school. He’s Peter Parker, so you can see him be gregarious. And then when he turns into a superhero, he’s not so far away from being real. I asked my daughter if she was going to see “[The Amazing] Spider-Man” a few years ago, and she said, “Yeah, dad, you have to.” “Why?” “I don’t know why, you have to.”
Were you reluctant to play the villain?
No! Not at all. And electricity — you can’t really kill electricity.I’m hoping if they do “The Sinister Six,” that you’ll be able to see him fully turn into the villain.Villains get to have more fun.
He’s a very sympathetic villain — at least initially.
Yeah. That’s what’s great about the “Spider-Man” franchise: All of the villains start from another place. They’re misunderstood. They’re not like, “I’m going to take over the world!” I just want to get the people back who did me wrong.
He can be very vulnerable too; his first big set piece starts with him acting confused and apologetic. Was that what intrigued you as an actor?
People have empathy for him — where he’s not just some guy you don’t care about. So Max thinks, “Man, I just really dig Spider-Man. And he should dig me. He’s my best friend. And we went to the movies together last night” — this is all going on in his head — “Then we hung out at the club. And he bought bottle service. But he doesn’t drink. And then he baked me a cake for my birthday!” It’s a great starting point.
Some of the costume is special effects. What did they actually do to you onset every day?
It was blue silicone over me. Then they would CGI the rest. It was 4 ½ hours of this s— every day. It was cool, though.
There’s a set piece in Times Square, some of which you shot in the actual Times Square. Did people recognize you under the costume?
I had a hoodie on. When people found out it was me — New York is hilarious. People came up and were like, “Yo, Foxx, here’s my mixtape. Can I get a number or something?”
At least it wasn’t those guys who try to make you pay for the mixtape.
It’s crazy. “Yo, that’s $12.” “I don’t want your motherf—in’ mixtape. S—.”
Did you go spend a lot of time researching the comics as prep?
In the study of Max, I did. I knew that Max was in his 40s, that he lost his wife — because she left him, because he couldn’t get things going. His father didn’t raise him; his mom doted over him. I used those as buildings blocks to make Max the character I wanted him to be.
The producers cited your performance as Drew Bundini Brown in “Ali” as one reason they went with you. Did you draw on that for your performance as Max?
Maybe the look, but I drew on this guy I’d known in my community who walked around in this military jacket, and was quiet and very smart. He lived with his mom. It was a little more animated in this film. Had it been a real art house drama, maybe I would have dialed it down a bit. But I drew on him. He’s a guy who’s excited about Spider-Man — like, grown man excitement. That’s weird.
Do you ever have hankerings to return to your comedy days?
Oh man, got to. I was on Jimmy Fallon the other night, thinking, “If I can just get back to the comedy.” But it has to be the right one. I’ve been pitching stuff to Will, to Kevin Hart, all these guys. If I can grab a hold of something, I’d love to do it.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge