Texas natives Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones will channel their Southern charms in the new Prime Video film The Burial, streaming on Prime Video from Friday, October 13, in Singapore, as well as in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.
The Burial also stars Jurnee Smollett, Mamoudou Athie, Bill Camp, Alan Ruck, and Pamela Reed. It’s based on true events, following a funeral home owner in Mississippi named Jeremiah “Jerry” O’Keefe (Jones), who sues a corporation after his handshake deal with its greedy CEO (Camp) goes south when the villainous boss and his company try to take advantage of Jerry. Hoping to save his family business and legacy, Jerry hires a charismatic attorney from Florida named Willie E. Gary (Foxx), whose silver-tongued approach makes him a successful litigator and a darling amongst jurors.
Both characters are inspired by real-life men of the same names. Just like the actors who are portraying them, Jerry and Willie are polar opposites on the surface. But their dogged pursuit of justice helps them bond and find common ground over time.
“It’s an odd match,” Foxx, who is also a producer on The Burial, observed in a press kit interview regarding the attorney and his client. “But Willie E. Gary said, ‘We’re all sons of the South.’ I thought that was an amazing tidbit to find, so during the shooting of this, that was sort of my mantra. These guys are just sons of the South.”
Jones added that the characters’ ability to relate as men and underdogs also brought them closer together.
“They have a mutual respect for one another,” Jones said of Jerry and Willie. “All people have things in common and it’s always good to seek those things out.”
Just like the film’s stars, Bobby Shriver, one of its producers, thought the stark differences between the protagonists help make the story all the more universal and appealing when the two become friends.
Shriver first learned about the real-life Jerry and Willie when he read The New York Times article titled 'Brash Funeral Chain Meets Match in Old South'. Journalist Nina Bernstein wrote the piece in 1996.
“I read an article about a white man in Mississippi flying to Florida to hire a Black lawyer to represent him in a funeral home case and thought, ‘A white man in Mississippi hired a Black lawyer in Florida? How is that possible?’” said Shriver, who eventually sat down with Willie to hear how his inspiring relationship with Jerry came to be. “It wouldn’t have made sense, so I knew there had to be something else there.”
Foxx and Jones also thrived on their commonalities and differences.
“I had a lot of fun working with Jamie,” Jones said. “He’s fun to be around and every workday was highly energized. We did a lot of laughing and some pretty good work got done, too.”
As fate would have it, Foxx used to impersonate Jones in his stand-up act long before he met him.
“What can I even say about Tommy Lee Jones?” Foxx asked rhetorically. “I used to do a joke on stage about Tommy Lee Jones where I would literally just say lines from The Fugitive, and he sounds exactly like that! Being on set with him, you could just feel his legendary presence. He’s so special for the role of Jeremiah.”
Director Maggie Betts, who also co-wrote the screenplay for The Burial, said Jones and Foxx’s fast friendship behind the scenes made their on-screen chemistry even stronger.
“Watching Tommy and Jamie play off each other was a joy,” Betts concluded. “They could not be more different, both in terms of the characters they play as well as who they are in ‘real-life.’ Still, they seemed to have such a natural affinity for each other, which is really touching in the way it comes through in the film.”
Watch The Burial on Prime Video starting October 13.