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The Iconic Role That Made Jamie Foxx Physically Ill

Fierce dedication to the craft has been on display throughout cinema history. Actors have battled with their body weight to get into character, and sometimes they work to fully immerse themselves in another person's experience to accurately play a real person, such as when Val Kilmer played Jim Morrison, or when Hilary Swank lived off-set as a transgender man when she was playing Brandon Teena in "Boys Don't Cry" (via the Los Angeles Times). 

In the case of Jamie Foxx, there was one role that demanded he perform without a critical sense in order to deliver the most realistic results. In 2004, the actor, singer, and comedian stepped into the iconic shoes of Ray Charles to tell the story of one of the most iconic soul musicians in history.

A crucial part of bringing Charles' story to the screen was portraying his loss of sight during childhood and his adaption to it through his life and musical career. An expert impressionist already, it's evident in the final product that Foxx had Charles' voice and cadence down perfectly — but how could an actor with sight play a legendary musician without it? 

The answer was a daring but demanding bit of special effects make-up, which would make him get the best understanding of what it was like being Ray Charles. The result, however, came with some rather severe side effects.

Jamie Foxx had his eyes glued shut to take on the role of Ray Charles

As revealed in a 2004 interview in The New York Times, Foxx had his eyelids glued shut and agreed to wear prosthetic eyelids based on Charles' eyelids to emulate his loss of sight, rather than wearing opaque glasses to hide that Foxx could see without issue. While undoubtedly an aid for Foxx delivering an Oscar-winning performance (via Oscars) beating the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Clint Eastwood at the time, the decision significantly impacted the star from the off. In the early stages of applying the prosthetic eyelids, Foxx had regular panic attacks in the first two weeks of filming. It was a choice that the actor admitted was worse than he predicted.

Foxx told The New York Times, "There was a period of about four days when I was like, 'What the hell is going on with my body and my mind?'" Attempting to adapt to a total loss of sight was, understandably, a very demanding adjustment to overcome for the role and took up a lot of time weekly. 

"Imagine having your eyes glued shut for 14-hours a day," Foxx said. "That's your jail sentence." The hard work paid off, however. Foxx's performance earned rave reviews (via Rotten Tomatoes) recognition at the Academy Awards and became one of Foxx's most revered roles to date.