The actor shows his support for the SAG-nominated film at an event in Los Angeles
Credit: Benjamin Shmikler

If Jamie Foxx were in charge of handing out film awards nominations, Straight Outta Compton would be headed straight for the Oscars.

The star, who recently celebrated his 48th birthday, moderated a lively and informative Q&A about the hit N.W.A. biopic in Los Angeles Sunday. The panel featured Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray, producer and N.W.A. co-founder Ice Cube and stars O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Cube’s real-life son who plays his dad in the film) and Jason Mitchell (who played Eazy-E).

The Annie actor did not hold back on expressing his enthusiasm for the film and candidly asked the audience – which was comprised of members of various VIP voting bodies responsible for handing out Screen Actors Guild awards, Golden Globes, Oscars, etc. – to keep the critically acclaimed, SAG-nominated drama top of mind.

“We all know why we have these events, we all know why we do this,” Foxx said knowingly, having experienced the ebbs and flows and importance of award season campaigns in the lead up to his 2004 Best Actor Oscar win for Ray and Best Supporting Actor nod for Collateral. “What I’m happy about is in this process, you get a chance to see something that has no color on it, you get a chance to see what the art is about.”

The Foxx-led discussion between Gray, Cube, Jackson and Mitchell centered around the making of the film, how both Jackson and Mitchell fought hard to win their roles and why Gray and Cube wanted to make a movie that was more than a biopic.

“We knew we were making a movie about hip hop, about gangster rap and we knew it wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea,” said Cube. “So we made that part the backdrop and we decided to make a movie about brotherhood, rags-to-riches, makeup-or-breakup, American history and freedom of speech – things that are universal to everybody and thank God it worked.”

The film was a major box office success, holding the top spot for three consecutive weeks after its initial release in August.

“I hope that everyone in this room really takes note on the performances, takes note on what the subject matter is,” Foxx said, speaking directly to the voters in the crowd. The Oscar-winner said that he knew the film was special based on the reactions he witnessed from a diverse audience at a theater in New York City’s Battery Park.

“That audience was moved as if they had been listening to this music from day one,” he said.

“As I’m watching [Mitchell’s] performance, the point when you were in the hospital, and when I looked down to a row of diverse people and one particular white male, probably about my age, who may not know anything about the music and I saw him burst into tears and I said, ‘That’s what it’s about,’ along with all the performances,” Foxx said. “Everybody is top notch.”

Gray hopes that audiences continue to find the film well after its award season consideration.

“One hundred years from now when they wonder what was going on in America in the ’80s and ’90s they can look back at this film,” the director said. “[N.W.A.] had the courage to stand up and be themselves and against all the controversy. I respect that they made a mark not only with the song about law enforcement and brutality but the fact that it’s making a difference today.

“I appreciate you Cube and this movie is more than a movie it’s a movement and it’s more relevant now than when it took place,” he continued.

“We didn’t make a two-and-a-half-hour music video like many assumed we were going to do,” added Jackson. “We speak on real human emotions, real human problems and triumph is the most important thing that comes out of it.”

Cube then highlighted the fact that he and Gray never went to film school, they just wanted to make great movies.

“We know a good movie when we see it, so to have you guys here, that’s all the appreciation I was considering for the movie,” Cube said. “The fact that the industry looks at us as great filmmakers and a great film we made. Everything after that is gravy to me.”

And then Foxx ended the festivities on a high note. Notes, rather. “So can we play some of that music in here?” he said, prompting the opening bars of N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton.” “Turn that music up for the cast of Straight Outta Compton. Turn it up, DJ!”