The reviews for the Ray Charles movie are now in and everyone seems to agree that Jamie Foxx is very good indeed. The New York Times called his performance “inventive, intuitive, and supremely intelligent.”
This raises one of the compelling little puzzles of our time. Why and how it is that so many people who begin their careers as stand up or improv comedians end up flourishing in more dramatic assignments on stage and screen. Dan Aykroyd, Mike Myers, and Jim Carrey all have demonstrated unsuspected dramatic abilities.
Surely, comedy is the last place we might expect to find someone capable of plumbing the depths of the human heart. Comedians are supposed to be interested in the cheap laugh, the easy out, the throw away line. This is why we contrast tragedy and comedy.
Technically, things are less mysterious. You can’t be a good comedians unless you have a suberb control of body and voice. Training for the stage is about learning how to make everything count. Training for improv is about seizing the opportunity. Both of these work well on film.
It is also true, in Mr. Foxx’s case, that he is actually very good at playing football and the piano. Not usually at the same time. And this gave him a useful preparation for Any Given Sunday and the Ray Charles project.
lI wondered if this might be a small part of the answer here: that actors tend not to be very good at much of anything except of course acting like people who are good at something. Comedians start later and they sometimes have real life experience on which to draw.
But there must be more to it than this.