Centered around the classic movie trope of good cops gone bad against hypnotically urban backdrops, Atlanta serves as Las Vegas in this actioner set to open in theaters nationwide on January 13th, 2017. In advance of that, AHH was able to sit down with Jamie Foxx and his costar Michelle Monaghan to discuss epic fight scenes, the beef between Soulja Boy and Chris Brown, as well as Foxx not getting the call for this year’s presidential inauguration.
AllHipHop: You both have a pretty epic mano a mano fight scene in this movie. What was that like?
Michelle Monaghan: I trained for months. I trained for at least two months three times a week three hours a day. Mixed martial arts with Jeff Imada, our stunt coordinator has done all the “Bourne” movies. Because I did it all with the exception of falling through the glass.
Jamie, how about your take on the battle royale? It looked pretty knock down drag out intense.
Jamie Foxx: Between Soulja Boy and Chris Brown?
That’s interesting too, but I was talking about the one in “Sleepless” between you and Michelle.
Jamie Foxx: Oh okay! I thought you were talking about what was going on right now. We was fighting.
Michelle Monaghan: We were.
Jamie Foxx: Getting it in. She socked me in my face.
Michelle Monaghan: I did, I did.
Jamie Foxx: She socked me right in the face.
Michelle Monaghan: He is such a gentleman. We really – Jamie knows I trained for a few months but we didn’t actually choreograph the scene until that set was ready and the set was just completed two days before it seems like – right before. So we choreographed it and I really didn’t think that I was going to nail the moves until they called action and something just always miraculously happens you know? We did it and then at some point I got a little ahead of myself and maybe the adrenaline was going a little bit too much I don’t know what it was but I was on top of Jamie and I just connected.
Jamie Foxx: Yes. Took off. They yelled action and she chipped my tooth. She really did. Yeah. Cause you know all of this (indicates his teeth) is for show. I take these off at night.
She actually chipped your tooth for real in the heat of battle?
Jamie Foxx: Yeah. I don’t know who here is into porcelain, but like, I live that porcelain life. And you can taste that little chalk you know – like mmmm.
Michelle Monaghan: I looked at my knuckle and I had split my knuckle and I looked at his tooth. I was like, ‘Oh my God!!!’ and he was looking at me and he’s like, “keep going, keep going.” I was like oh my gosh!?! He was a total pro. The next day I was feeling really bad and sheepish. We had to complete the scene or whatever it was that we were doing and I’m trying to steal a glance at his mug and they were like perfect!
Jamie Foxx: Yeah.
Michelle Monaghan: I was thinking to myself, ‘wow, that’s kind of crazy.’
Jamie Foxx: Because my best friend who lives in Atlanta where we were shooting, he’s a dentist. We grew up together. So I hit him up and I said, yo’ money, you gotta put the plaster on. Spackle.
Talk about knowing the right people in the right place at the right time. I suppose it’s good that there weren’t any mishaps with the kitchen scene. That involved not just hand to hand, but pots, pans, knives and some serious martial arts action.
Jamie Foxx: The kitchen scene was exhausting. That was an exhausting day. I remember my guy – I can’t remember his name now but the guy that I was fighting, you know he had to do a lot of things so we had to take a couple of water breaks. You know, relax.
It was Tim Connolly as per the press pages. He was the world’s number two-ranked Tae Kwon Do competitor, plus he is a regular at the U.S. Olympic Training Center when he’s not doing pictures like this. As such, I think those water breaks were warranted. With fight scenes or any of the other scenes for that matter, were there any sequences that ended up on the cutting room floor that you wish would have stayed in?
Jamie Foxx: No not the best stuff. I just think there were some things that we never got a chance to shoot. I mean you’re always – I mean this was the indie process. You’re like, ‘aw man, maybe we could have got that,” but all in all it was cool.
That’s it? Nothing more to say on that?
Jamie Foxx: There was this part where I was- naw I’m just kidding. Like we were talking about earlier about the genesis of the movie, you know – how it starts and what you’re going to do and once you start shooting it takes it’s own life and things like that, so that’s it.
What was or were the most difficult sequences for you both to film?
Michelle Monaghan: I mean, the fight sequence (with Jamie Foxx) for sure. Because it was just exhausting. Mentally. You can hurt somebody. So it was that for me.
And for you Jamie?
Jamie Foxx: I think the kitchen scene. That fight scene was relentless but fun. It took a little epsom salt at night, some hot baths and some massages to get things back in order but it was all fun. All make believe.
This movie has a definite cool 80s “Miami Vice”, “Heat” Michael Mann inspired feel. Was that done on purpose at the outset or did things just coalesce in that way dramatically?
Jamie Foxx: You’d have to ask the director more but I even looking at it I get that as well. It was sort of the simplicity of a like I was saying this earlier – falling into a episode of “Kojak”. You remember how things are already going, things are already moving and there was a certain simplicity in the car chase scenes. You know it was just vroom boom. So it was a little bit different than the modern day films you watch now where there’s a lot of cut aways to show you the scene. You’re right in that aspect.
How much collaboration was there between you and German director Baran Bo Odar on your character and the plot? Was there a lot of give and take seeing as the story is so informed by an “old school” American sensibility – for lack of a better label?
Jamie Foxx: Yeah you know I think for this or a movie you’ve sort of seen this type of movie before so it was like, what would be our sort of take on it. Of course, the delightful Gabrielle Union, we would chat about what it is our relationship would be and then of course with the son. It was actually a scene in the movie that wasn’t written into the movie that’s when we’re in the car with my son and you see him extracted from the car – that wasn’t in the movie but I was like I think you need to show Vincent (Jamie Foxx’s character), who is about to tie everything up and everything is hunky dory – he’s going to connect with his son, he’s going to get back with his girl, he’s going to bust the bad guys and he’s rolling to the stop light. And had the street light been green, he probably would have rolled through and he probably would have gotten away but boom here it is he’s about to connect with his son and then seeing his son being extracted from the car, I think it gives it a little more stakes.
Currently, it would seem to be an issue that many of Hollywood’s biggest A list performers and entertainers are not choosing to perform at this month’s presidential inauguration. What is your take on that?
Jamie Foxx: I cannot believe that they didn’t call me. It’s crazy. You know, “Gold Digger” and “Blame It On The Alcohol” would be appropriate. I mean, come on now. Everybody put your hands up.
But seriously –conceivably they could have asked you. What do you make of the situation and any possible message behind it?
Jamie Foxx: I think everything is going to be fine. I don’t know what we get out of, what do you want out of this question?
I guess the question is are you shocked by the situation? Are you surprised?
Jamie Foxx: I mean, I don’t know.
Michelle Monaghan: I can’t say that I’m surprised. I mean, I think that the majority of this community you’re referring has made their views very well known over the course of the last year-
Jamie Foxx: And it’s okay.
Michelle Monaghan: It’s okay. The thing is, above the idea that we are artists, we’re Americans. And we have all of our unique viewpoints and so you are allowed to make your own decisions. You vote for your own – what you want. So I’m not surprised that some people have chosen.
Jamie Foxx: That shouldn’t shock you. With all that’s going on.
Let me ask another way. Some artists think that even if they went as nonpartisans there would be so much blowback from the act itself that they’d hurt their careers. Do you agree with that?
Jamie Foxx: I don’t think it’s that. I think it’s if that’s the man that you want to go and – we all support whoever is the president of the United States. So we’re not going to get in the conversation of that it’s just simply hey man, this is our country. Our country is built in a way that even if there are people that you disagree with the country still moves along. Whether it’s republican whether it’s democratic it’s sort of a pendulum system if you look at our system. There’s always been eight years and then it’s always going to change – no matter who it is. It could have been Scott Baio. It still somehow swings no matter who the candidate is. If you look at it without a pulse. See, we’re in a world now where of course it’s examined but if you look at our system, our system is designed so that no one can topple it. No one can become a dictator that all sort of stuff that people talk about in the press. Our system is designed to function in an incredible way no matter who the president is – that you agree with or don’t agree with. Does that make sense?
Yes – that makes sense.
Jamie Foxx: You know what’s crazy? Once that date is over, nobody is going to remember who performed at the inauguration.
I see what you are saying, but respectfully I do think people remember.
Jamie Foxx: Who performed?
Beyonce performed for Obama. Aretha Franklin performed “My Country Tis of Thee” for both Obama. Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Tony Bennett, Diana Ross and LL Cool J performed as a part of Clinton’s first inauguration.
Jamie Foxx: But who performed for the Republicans? If you are a Democrat, you only remember the Democrats. If you are a Republican, you remember the Republicans. You see what I’m saying?
Yes. But this whole election has been very divisive for regular Americans and multi platinum and Oscar winning artists alike. As such, do you think that it has or will create any lasting divisions between those actors and performers on different sides of the political line from a work standpoint? Do you believe that there is any danger of a return to Hollywood black listing in our collective future?
Jamie Foxx: I think media makes it even more divisive. The way we talk about it in a very divisive way. I look at it like this – I’m the type of person who shares views along with the republicans and I share views along with the democrats and with the independents. But the only way to get things exciting is to pit one against the other. So that’s how we discuss things. It’s like, I talk about this all the time. We doing some interview about Basketball and it was like the top players on there. I said, you gotta look at certain things and red them without a pulse. If you can do that, then you can get the conversation going.
“Sleepless,” starring Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Dermot Mulroney, David Harbour, Gabrielle Union and Scoot McNairy opens nationwide in theaters on January 13, 2017.