Jamie Foxx Shares First Look at 'The Burial' with Tommy Lee Jones: Tells 'a Great American Story' (Exclusive)

Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones talk to PEOPLE about their new film, which world premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival

Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones are teaming up to bring true events to life in The Burial.

In a PEOPLE-exclusive first look at the upcoming legal drama, directed and co-written by Maggie Betts (Novitiate), Jones, 76, and Foxx, 55, both discuss working together and what appealed to them about the story. (The interviews were conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike.)

The Burial, which will world premiere on Sept. 11 at the Toronto International Film Festival, follows the real-life story of Jeremiah Joseph O'Keefe's lawsuit against the Loewen Group, a Canadian funeral-home company, as documented by The New Yorker.

Asked about what drew him to The Burial, Foxx, who also co-produced the drama, tells PEOPLE that it's "a great American story" and notes, "We actually heard about this project probably 15 years ago. So it tells you how projects can be special. You hear about it 15 years ago, but now, everything lines up."

"Maggie Betts lines up. [Producer] Datari Turner lines up. Everybody involved lines up, and then here we are embarking upon an incredible story, with an amazing character. It just feels good!" he says, adding that, upon learning Betts was involved as director, he was ready to "jump in."

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<p>Skip Bolen/Prime Video</p> Tommy Lee Jones and Jamie Foxx in <em>The Burial</em> (2023)

Skip Bolen/Prime Video

Tommy Lee Jones and Jamie Foxx in The Burial (2023)

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Jones plays Mississippi funeral director Jeremiah O’Keefe, who, due to debts, is forced "to sell parts of his business to a corporation rapidly buying up funeral homes, cemeteries and insurance companies to profit from what its CEO, Ray Loewen (Bill Camp), refers to as 'the golden age of death,' " a synopsis from TIFF reads.

"I had a lot of fun working with Jamie," Jones tells PEOPLE. "He's fun to be around, and every work day was highly energized. We did a lot of laughing and some pretty good work got done, too."

And the feeling is mutual, as Foxx says of Jones, "When the artistic stars line up and certain people step into a role, it usually turns out really, really good. He’s so special for the part."

<p>Karwai Tang/WireImage; Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic; Paul Morigi/Getty </p> From L: Jamie Foxx, Maggie Betts, Tommy Lee Jones

Karwai Tang/WireImage; Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic; Paul Morigi/Getty

From L: Jamie Foxx, Maggie Betts, Tommy Lee Jones

Speaking about what Foxx brought to the movie, Betts tells PEOPLE that "it was clear" to her "from the start that Jamie was going to completely devour the role of Willie Gary."

"The real Willie Gary has a huge, larger-than-life personality, and I knew Jamie had the talent, charisma and range to bring this complex and multi-faceted persona to the screen," she adds. "He was a perfect match for the role, and he brought so much more humanity and vulnerability to the character than I could have ever expected which, as a director, was very exciting to work with."

Foxx's friendly demeanor with the actors playing his character's legal team in the movie also stuck out to the filmmaker. As she recalls, "At one point, I heard Jamie say to all the guys, 'You know what? Maybe we should all have a sleepover at my place sometime and watch movies!' Which I thought was so endearing and hilarious."

Related: New Films Starring Jamie Foxx, Anna Kendrick and Al Pacino to Debut at 2023 Toronto International Film Festival

Aside from Foxx, Jones and Camp, 58, The Burial also boasts Jurnee Smollett, Alan Ruck, Mamoudou Athie and Pamela Reed as part of its cast.

Asked why audiences should be excited for the movie, Betts says that its "themes are so universal, and I think audiences from all walks of life will find something that resonates with them."

"The film is triumphant and inspiring, and will leave audiences laughing, cheering and feeling deeply," the director adds.

The Burial is in select theatres Oct. 6 and streaming globally on Prime Video Oct. 13.

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