Forrest Whitaker - Best Actor - Academy Awards 2007

Forest Steven Whitaker (born July 15, 1961) is an Academy Award-winning American actor of film, stage and television, as well as a producer and director. In 2007, his performance as Ugandan president Idi Amin in the film The Last King of Scotland earned Whitaker a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a BAFTA for best actor and an Academy Award for Best Actor.

Early life

Whitaker was born in Longview, Texas to Forest Whitaker, Jr., an insurance man and son of novelist Forest Whitaker, Sr., and Laura Francis Smith, a teacher. He has a medical condition called strabismus, commonly known as "lazy eye" [1]. His mother put herself through college and earned two Masters degrees while raising her children (Forest has two younger brothers, Kenn and Damon, and an older sister Deborah). The family moved to the Los Angeles area when Whitaker was a toddler. Whitaker commuted from Carson to Palisades High School, where he was all-league defensive tackle on the football team quarterbacked by Jay Schroeder, a future NFL player. [2]

Whitaker attended California State Polytechnic Univ., Pomona on a football scholarship, but left due to a debilitating back injury. He was accepted to the Music Conservatory at the University of Southern California to study opera as a tenor, and was then accepted into the Drama Conservatory. He graduated from USC in 1982. He also earned a scholarship to the Berkeley, California branch of the Drama Studio London.[3]


Whitaker's first onscreen role of note was in 1982's Fast Times at Ridgemont High alongside the likes of Nicolas Cage, Phoebe Cates and Sean Penn. He followed with notable roles in Platoon, Good Morning, Vietnam, and The Color of Money. In 1988, Forest played the role of musician Charlie Parker in the Clint Eastwood-directed film, Bird, for which he won Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for a Golden Globe award. Whitaker was originally called upon to write and direct a live-action movie adaptation of Bill Cosby's cartoon, Fat Albert, but differences between the two led to Whitaker leaving the production.[4]

Whitaker branched out into producing and directing in the 1990s. He co-produced and co-starred in A Rage in Harlem in 1991. He executive produced the 2002 Emmy-award winning made-for-television movie, Door to Door, starring William H. Macy. He made his directorial debut with a grim film about inner-city gun violence, Strapped, for HBO in 1993. In 1995, he directed his first feature, Waiting to Exhale, and also directed co-star Whitney Houston's music video of the movie's theme song ("Shoop Shoop"). In 2004, he directed the romantic comedy, First Daughter.

In 2001, Whitaker had a small, uncredited role in the Wong Kar-wai-directed The Follow, one of five short films produced by BMW that year to promote its cars.[5] In 2002, Whitaker was the host and narrator of 44 new episodes of the Rod Serling classic, The Twilight Zone, which lasted one season on UPN.[6]

In January 2006, Whitaker joined the cast of FX's cop serial The Shield, as Lieutenant Jon Kavanaugh. His performance as a tormented internal affairs cop was well-received. In the fall of 2006, Whitaker started his multi-episode story arc on ER as Curtis Ames, a man who comes into the ER with a cough, but quickly faces the long-term consequences of a paralyzing stroke. He then takes out his anger on Doctors Luka Kovac and Abby Lockhart. Also in 2006, he appeared in T.I.'s video "Live in the Sky" alongside Jamie Foxx.
Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland as Idi Amin
Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland as Idi Amin

To prepare for his role as dictator Idi Amin in the 2006 film The Last King of Scotland, Whitaker gained 50 pounds, learned to play the accordion, and immersed himself in research.[7] He read books about Amin, watched news and documentary footage, and spent time in Uganda meeting with Amin's friends, relatives, generals, and victims; he also learned Swahili and mastered Amin's East African accent. [8]

His performance earned him the 2007 Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, making him the fourth African-American male to earn that award, and the third in five years (after Denzel Washington in 2001 and Jamie Foxx in 2004). For that same role, he also received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama, the Screen Actors Guild Award, a British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Award, and accolades from the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the National Board of Review and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

On February 10, 2007, Whitaker hosted Saturday Night Live. His singing talent was featured in several sketches.

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