Friday, June 14, 2024

Leaping Giant

November 13, 2023 by  
Filed under Cover Story, Feature

Jamie Foxx rises to the occasion in “The Burial,” which tells the real-life story of legendary attorney Willie E. Gary.

Jamie Foxx as Willie Gary in The Burial Photo: Skip Bolen © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC

Speculation swirling around Jamie Foxx’s health has been one of the most closely-watched celebrity stories of the year. Thankfully, the Academy Award-winning star of “Ray,” “Django Unchained,” and the classic 1990s sketch comedy series “In Living Color” has appeared in public a handful of times since his well-documented medical scare. And now audiences are welcoming his return to the screen with an impeccable portrayal of attorney Willie E. Gary in “The Burial,” streaming on Amazon Prime Video. 

Based on true events that followed a handshake deal gone wrong, it tells the story of white funeral home owner Jeremiah O’Keefe (Tommy Lee Jones), who enlists charismatic, smooth-talking Black attorney Willie E. Gary (Foxx) to save his family business. The film is a wonderful experience — primarily because of how artfully it integrates cultural expression and emotion into this real-life courtroom battle, where Foxx gives a master class in intelligent swagger in the role of Gary. 

Jamie Foxx as Willie Gary in The Burial Photo: Skip Bolen © AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC

The film also offers jaw-dropping scenes of the wide open, seemingly boundless fields in both Mississippi and Florida that are the final resting places for thousands of enslaved people who never received tombstones or name plates to mark their graves. Many of these fields of buried slaves still exist today. 

On the surface, “The Burial” seems to be a story about a contract law dispute — but there are issues related to race, class, corporate greed and corruption hidden just beneath. Not surprisingly these are a myriad of lessons to be learned and takeaways to ponder. 

Foxx, an executive producer on the film, describes it as “a great American story.” Co-producer Datari Turner added: “I want people to be entertained while watching the film, but also understand why it’s important not to judge a book by its cover.” 

It is an understatement to say that Foxx’s wardrobe exemplifies the best of the fashion sense that Gary displayed whenever he walked into a courtroom. But when it came to outfitting Foxx, the costume designer didn’t have to look far. “The clothes I wore in the film were actually my clothes that I still had in my closet from the 1990s,” he said. “It was great to relive that time and remember why we thought the ‘90s were so special — from the cuts in the suits, to Versace, and all of that. During that time your clothes, watches and rings could really be a statement. I can imagine that whenever Willie Gary walked into a courtroom, he felt like a Black man who’d achieved.” 

Reflecting on the opportunity to portray Gary, Foxx said it was personal: “Willie has so much swagger, style, and listening to the way he talked and interacted with people — I just thought he was so genuine and raw. It felt good to be the essence of Willie Gary and to find a smart, bombastic, living outside-the-box type of character, which is tailored-made for what I do.” 

The real-life Willie Gary, Esq. earned his reputation as “The Giant Killer,” by taking down some of America’s most well-known corporate giants on behalf of his clients. He has won some of the largest jury awards and settlements in United States history, including more than 150 cases valued more than $1 million each. 

Gary’s amazing success has earned him national recognition as a leading trial attorney. When asked what he hopes audiences feel while watching a film that was 15 years in the making, he said, “Every day won’t be a Sunday. Just because you’re experiencing tough times, and you will have tough times, you’ve got to keep living. No matter who you are. Weathering the storms is how you make it through.”

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