The 2009 dramatic film “The Soloist” left a lasting impression on actor Jamie Foxx. In the movie, he played Juilliard-trained cellist Nathaniel Ayers, a musician who suffers with schizophrenia and resolved to live in Los Angeles’ homeless enclave on Skid Row.
The film saw Foxx, who had already won an Oscar for his portrayal of blues icon Ray Charles, completely transform into Ayers. From his hair, cadence of speech, mannerisms, clothes, and more, Foxx left little room to determine where he ended and Ayers began. The role, he found, was taxing and consuming.
In a recent appearance on the “Toxics Anonymous Podcast,” Foxx revisited the toll his portrayal of the mentally unstable artist has had on his approach to embodying a character for the big screen. “I have to be very careful what I put on me and, pause, in me. If I ingest something the wrong way or if I’m doing a part where I’m supposed to lose my mind, he [Lamont] knows, like, in 2008, I lost my whole nugget,” he told the show’s hosts.
The Academy Award-winning talent alluded that a drug enhancement that helped him drop weight for the role may have added to the mental break he experienced as he filmed the flick. As he lost his sense of self, he remembered the various sanatoriums he’d seen in Terrell, Texas, where he grew up. Foxx explained, “I’ve always seen crazy people my whole life. Sometimes you go there [Terrell] and you see the teenage ward, which would freak you out when you see 16-year-olds, so that was in the back of my psyche, but I got to open that to get to this dude.” And he did. “The minute I opened it, all them n—-s ran through, they all ran through.”
Fearing that he may have gone too far into character, Foxx said he asked the production psychologist if it was possible to “catch schizophrenia.” Despite his visceral feelings of losing his sanity, it is not at all possible to catch the mental disorder that dilutes an individual’s ability to interpret reality. Some of the symptoms of the illness include hallucinations, delusions, and other cognitive issues that disrupt every aspect of life.
“The Jamie Foxx Show” star continued with his story, “At one point I had to get up and use the restroom and when I looked down at my hands, my hands looked exactly like his [Ayers]. Four thirty in the morning, I called my manager, ‘Yo, King.’ He said, ‘What’s up Foxx?’ “
The actor said he responded, “I know why he does why he does.” “Why is that, Foxx,” his manager asked. “Because I’m him,” he eerily answered. “I’m going out of my f—g head… I had to take medication. I had to get on something,” said Foxx. He further revealed that the medication made him feel that he had truly gone crazy, so he stopped taking it cold turkey.
In 2009, Foxx spoke about how scary the experience of transforming into Ayers was for him. He said, “We’re all artists, and we all go different places in our minds, but I feel, if I were to lose my mind, I would lose everything.”
Foxx continued, “So, that was a little bit of the fear going into the project. But, that was it. You had to get it. You had to get it and once you get it, you feel it and you feel like it’s really that person. Like you’ll say it in your mouth, you’ll say whatever that person says and you’ll hear it in your mind and say ‘OK, I am that person.’…You had to lose your mind every day you’re on set, and sometimes you didn’t have enough time to get your mind back before the weekend.”