On a January evening in Hidden Valley, some 50 miles northwest of central Los Angeles, things suddenly took a turn for the worse. Out of nowhere, a loud noise interrupted the normal street sounds of the community – and it immediately caught the attention of Hollywood star Jamie Foxx. In fact, the crash seemed to have come from right outside the actor’s estate, and he would quickly have to make a very important decision.
Without missing a beat, Foxx sprang into action – much as he might have done in a scene from his movie White House Down. But this was no movie set. The Hollywood actor was confronted with a flaming wreck: a car had veered off the road and turned over, landing right in front of the entrance to the film star’s property.
To make matters worse, a human life was in danger. Someone was trapped inside the car, which had the potential to explode at any moment. This left Foxx with a very difficult choice – and one that could change his life for better or for worse. Would the star step up to be a real-life hero?
Before we come back to that moment, let’s take a look at how Jamie Foxx came to be the man who he was on that day. Indeed, while we may know him as a world-famous celebrity, the actor had relatively humble beginnings. Born Eric Marlon Bishop, the future star grew up in Terrell, a small town in Texas with a population of some 12,000 people. Foxx knew from an early age what he wanted to do, though.
Speaking at a Tribeca Talks: Storytellers event in 2018, Foxx explained, “I [was] always destined to do something that was entertaining.” And there’s little doubt that Foxx has done just that. In fact he has thrived in every avenue of the entertainment world that he has tackled. From music to comedy to acting, Foxx has shown that he is capable of doing it all.
Foxx began with music, playing the piano from a young age. This passion would see him win a scholarship at San Diego’s United States International University, pursuing music theory and classical piano. It was during his studies that Foxx would begin to gain a reputation in L.A. for doing stand-up comedy – which is in fact what pushed him to change his name.
Foxx explained at the Tribeca Talks event that while doing improv and stand-up comedy gigs, he began to notice that male performers outnumbered women by perhaps as many as twenty to one. Indeed, his was just another name in a long list, and – facing tough competition – he would never be called up to the stage.
Then one day in Santa Monica, the comedian decided to write down a series of unisex names that he could go by, such as Stacey Brown, Tracey Green… and Jamie Foxx. Picking the last option, he was selected as the opening act – and that was when his fortunes changed. “I [ended] up getting a standing ovation as ‘Jamie Foxx,’ and that’s how the legend was born,” Foxx explained.
After achieving success playing to live audiences, Foxx found his way onto TV. Appearing in the sketch comedy series In Living Color, the rising star played Wanda, who proved to be one of the most popular characters on the show. Following this, Foxx went on to release his first comedy special in 1993: Jamie Foxx: Straight from the Foxxhole.
In 1996 Foxx then went on to star in his own semi-autobiographical sitcom, which he co-created: The Jamie Foxx Show. The show ran for five seasons, and while it didn’t draw large audiences, it opened up new opportunities for Foxx and his co-stars. In fact Foxx was beginning to establish a reputation as a versatile performer both in front of and behind the camera.
Indeed, while this had been happening, Foxx had also begun turning heads in Hollywood, and he already had several big-screen credits to his name. But Foxx’s movie career wasn’t an entirely straight path, either. Instead, the comedian-turned-actor appeared in a mix of romcoms, family movies, comedies and dramas – and he would play a wide range of characters before the decade was out.
Foxx’s Hollywood career kicked off with the Robin Williams-starring Toys in 1992, just three years after he adopted his new moniker. Over the course of the decade, he would then make appearances in films such as The Great White Hype and Booty Call – before his dramatic breakthrough in Any Given Sunday. That part saw him appearing alongside Al Pacino and Cameron Diaz and paved the way for Foxx to win more serious roles.
Indeed, Foxx would become a genuine Hollywood superstar in the years that followed. In 2005 he received Oscar nominations for his appearances in both Collateral and Ray, and he won the award for Best Actor for the latter part. But even bigger things were to follow, with starring turns as a runaway slave in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, as the president in White House Down and as the super-villain Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, to name just a few.
And Foxx’s hot streak hasn’t stopped in the years since. Just Mercy, released in 2019, saw the actor playing Walter McMillian, an African-American man wrongfully sentenced to death in a true-life tale. Co-starring Michael B. Jordan – who has had starring appearances in Black Panther and the Creed series – the movie sought to highlight the deep-seated racial inequalities that still exist in America.
And it’s a topic that is close to Foxx’s heart. “My father was an educator for 25 years, in the hood,” he explained at The Hollywood Reporter’s 2019 Actor Roundtable. “He dedicated his life to saving black kids in the hood, and they ended up putting him in jail for $25 worth of illegal substance for seven years. That was a huge thing that I carried inside.”
And Foxx’s performance in the movie has attracted praise, seeing him gain a nomination for best supporting role at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Of course, it’s far from the first time that the actor’s work has been recognized – and he has earned a string of awards over the course of his career, including Golden Globes, Baftas and Oscars. But the star has received accolades for much more than just his acting work.
In fact Foxx also has a hugely successful career in music. In 2005 he collaborated with the rapper Kanye West on the single “Gold Digger,” which won “Best Duet/Collaboration” at the BET Awards. Within a matter of months of the single, the actor-singer also released his second album, Unpredictable, which reached number one on the Billboard charts.
Foxx later picked up two Grammy nominations and one win with artist T-Pain for the song “Blame It” in 2010. But Hollywood stardom didn’t detract one bit from Foxx’s musical career. In 2015 the star’s fifth studio album, Hollywood: A Story of a Dozen Roses, in fact debuted in the top spot on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and at number ten on the Billboard 200.
Meanwhile, going beyond his impressive career, Foxx has also been seen to commit himself to a number of good causes. In 2008 he teamed up with fellow actor Corbin Bleu for the Feed the Need food drive, which sought to distribute one million pounds of food to people without homes. The initiative was inspired by the movie The Soloist, in which Foxx played a homeless violinist.
Foxx and Bleu – a star from the High School Musical series – recorded short films calling on young Americans to collect food staples for the homeless, such as peanut butter, cereal and macaroni and cheese. Clearly the movie’s subject had struck a chord for the actors. But this would be far from the only time that Foxx used his star power in this way.
In 2017, following devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, Foxx partnered with his Django Unchained co-star Leonardo DiCaprio to raise relief funds via the Hand in Hand telethon. “We’re here to raise money, lifts some spirits,” Foxx said. “When tough times hit, this is who we are. We’re compassionate, we’re unstoppable when we unite, when we join together hand in hand.”
And Foxx isn’t afraid to stretch himself, as his appearance in the 2019 charitable California Strong celebrity softball game proved. Foxx and other stars got together to help raise money for those who had been affected by wildfires and by the Thousand Oaks shooting, which saw a gunman kill thirteen people at a country-western bar the previous November. As Foxx would explain, these were local issues that mattered to him.
“This is my community man, I mean Malibu and a Thousand Oaks,” Foxx told Today. “We’re the smartest people in the planet to figure out a way to not violate anyone’s rights or figure out a way to stop these mass killings and so that’s my thing.” Clearly, he’s a star who seeks to make a difference.
In fact Foxx has used his public profile on many occasions to help charitable causes. For example, he partnered with the Mesquite Independent School District to support its #ReadPlayTalk campaign, making an appearance to read to students at Florence Black Elementary School. Similarly, he attended the tenth Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show – the world’s largest single fundraising event for people with Down syndrome – along with his sister, who was born with the condition.
During the fashion show, Foxx participated in an auction and helped to raise some $65,000 for the event. But the performer’s giving doesn’t end there, by any means. Indeed, he has supported a range of charities across a whole spectrum of issues, including the Cancer Research Institute, Make Poverty History and the Elton John AIDS Foundation, to name just three.
Perhaps most impressive is the fact that Foxx has set up his own foundation. The organization “provides for the health, education and welfare of children throughout the world.” As well as tackling HIV/AIDS in Haiti and Africa, the foundation aims to assist adoption programs and boost literacy and exposure to the arts for young people.
Given all this, one might wonder how Foxx would react if he were faced with a real-life emergency; the Hollywood star has certainly played action heroes on the big screen who would be able to face down any crisis. But the events that took place on that January evening in 2016 would truly test the actor’s mettle. Would he put his own life in danger in order to save someone else?
At around 8:30 p.m., then-32-year-old Brett Kyle was driving in Ventura County when his Toyota Tacoma truck came off the road. Seen later, the vehicle appeared to have skidded before rolling and coming to rest on its passenger side – and the crushed vehicle in fact landed just feet from Foxx’s front gate. It was there that it burst into flames, with Kyle still trapped inside. The actor heard the sounds of the impact at once, followed by screams. He knew he had to act quickly.
Indeed, according to reports, Foxx didn’t think twice about throwing himself into danger. After having dialed 911, the actor apparently decided to make his way directly to the scene, rather than waiting for the emergency services. Once at the site of the crash, Foxx found an off-duty paramedic, and the two set about rescuing the driver from the burning vehicle.
Although Foxx appeared to downplay the event when interviewed, other observers weren’t so reticent. “Jamie didn’t hesitate,” a member of Foxx’s team told ABC News. “He jumped out and ran to the car.” The star might not have wanted to accept praise, but it seems that he became a real-life hero that day.
The police also confirmed this side of the story. “Two witnesses that were near the collision scene ran to the burning, overturned truck in an attempt to free the driver,” police sources told ABC News. “One of the witnesses retrieved a rescue tool from his vehicle allowing the two citizens to break the window, cut the seatbelt and extricate the driver.”
“Your son’s a fighter,” Foxx told Kyle’s father, Brad, in footage posted by The Guardian, as he explained how he had pulled the man out of the vehicle. The actor went into detail about how he and the paramedic had broken the car window, cut the younger Kyle free and then hoisted him out of the vehicle. And they had just seconds to spare, Foxx said, before the vehicle was engulfed in flames.
Recalling the scene while speaking to KCAL, the Oscar-winning actor said he told the man, “You’ve got to help me get you out, because I don’t want to have to leave you… You’ve got angels around you.” Reflecting on the incident, he added, “I don’t look at it as heroic. I just look at it as – I had to do something. It all just worked out.”
Foxx also received praise for his brave actions from Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Captain Mike Lindbery. After announcing that the driver had been admitted to hospital with burns, Lindbery told CNN, “It was a pretty courageous thing to do. It’s rare these days that you find someone willing to jump in to help like that.”
The victim’s father reported that he had seen footage of the accident site which showed several drivers passing on by without stopping to help, according to The Sydney Morning Herald. Foxx might have been modest about his involvement, but he took it upon himself to act, even when doing so put his own life in danger. And that may very well have made all the difference.
In comments broadcast by ABC, the victim’s father tearfully said, “It doesn’t matter to me who it was or what they do for a living or whatever; just the idea that someone would do that is almost more than I could fathom. So – it’s all tears of joy.” One can only imagine the father’s emotional state, considering just how close his son had come to dying. But he had more to say.
“I think we all hope that we can do something when the time is there, but the question is, ‘Do we?’” the father asked. “Do we act, or do we fear for our own lives? And he did not, he acted, and the good kind of acting!” There’s little doubt that Foxx stepped up to be a real hero that day – and to be a true inspiration.
After the accident, Foxx posted a picture on his Instagram page which showed him hugging the driver’s father. He wrote, “Met the father of the young man from last night today. This is all that matters. That a man, a son, a brother’s life was spared last night. God had his arms wrapped around all of us… No heroes… Just happy fathers.”
The Instagram post and the brief interview that Foxx gave at the scene were the only public statements that the star made about the incident. While others might act differently, Foxx didn’t hope to promote this unplanned act of heroism one bit more. In fact when reporters from the entertainment media site TMZ contacted the actor, he refused to comment, firmly closing the book on the matter.
The driver was reportedly arrested on the basis that he had been driving under the influence of alcohol. And although he sustained serious injuries to his chest, head, neck and lungs, as well as burns, he was expected to survive. For that – and for one life-changing lesson – he could thank Jamie Foxx.