Joseph Gorden-Levitt and Dominique Fishback star with Jamie Foxx in the upcoming film, out Aug. 14.

By Sarah Rodman
July 14, 2020 at 02:00 PM EDT
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If you could have a superpower for five minutes by popping a pill, would you take it? What if a percentage of people who opted for the ride ended up dying instead of getting juiced? That is one of the questions at the heart of the fast-paced new Netflix film Project Power. Naturally, there is a nefarious government entity hellbent on weaponizing it, a criminal element with a keen interest in profiting from it, and one man — Jamie Foxx, EW's latest cover star — whose life has already been devastated by it.

To save his daughter, Foxx’s character Art follows the yellow-pill road alongside Robin (Dominique Fishback), a savvy teen purveyor of the glowing capsules — she has her reasons! — and a determined cop, with charmingly misplaced Clint Eastwood aspirations, named Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

The project came to co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Viral, Paranormal Activity 3 and 4) as a spec script in 2017. “We read the first 10 pages and were like, ‘We have to make this,’” recalls Joost. “It was the Robin character we felt was so compelling and unique. Just the realism of it, the thought experiment of what would the world be like if a pill like this existed, and how would it be tested? How would it be distributed? What would the effect be on people?”

All three actors happily signed on for the New Orleans-set experiment due to the inherent action, drama, and humor. Balancing those elements, in a film that also features an undercurrent of timeliness with regard to policing and systemic racism beneath its punch-’em-up veneer, was the biggest challenge the pair faced. Solution? Casting.

“That is the tightrope we had to walk the whole time,” says Schulman. “We knew that we weren’t trying to make a really darkly serious film, because that’s just not us. The way we try to get our messages across is with fun and humor. You want actors that had that humanity, that can be serious and light.” Adds Joost, “Jamie, Joe, and Dom have that ability to switch between those moods. We didn't want to make a movie that was relentlessly dark or relentlessly bleak. Just reflected life, which, sometimes in the midst of these really scary situations, there's levity to be found. We were looking for it.”

“I love big popcorn movies, but I also love it when a big popcorn movie has a little something to it,” says Gordon-Levitt of allusions to social issues within the narrative. “And I think this one has just enough. It’s not a movie that is going to hit you over the head with a message... but I think it asks questions that are really salient. Who has the power? And why?”

As for real-life superpowers, and the ability to have them for more than five minutes, Fishback longs for teleportation, Gordon-Levitt envisions himself as Mr. E (or Mystery!), possessor of heroic empathy, and Joost and Schulman would like to play jazz saxophone (Coltrane level, thanks) and have “an indestructible digestive system,” respectively. If only there were a pill for that.

For more on Jamie Foxx and Project Powerorder the August issue of Entertainment Weekly now. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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