Forest WhitakerActor / Filmmaker
Born: 15 July 1961
Birthplace: Longview, Texas
Best known as: Oscar-winning star of The Last King of Scotland
Forest Whitaker won an Academy Award for his critically-acclaimed turn as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 2006 feature film The Last King of Scotland. Big, black and with offset eyes, Whitaker has been a respected screen actor since his breakout roles in The Color of Money (1986, by Martin Scorsese) and The Crying Game (1988). Raised in California, Whitaker went to college to play football, then studied to be an operatic tenor before moving into the dramatic arts. He made his feature film debut in the 1982 comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High (starring Sean Penn). His small role as the soft-spoken hustler who outwits Paul Newman in The Color of Money earned him the respect of critics, and he was soon appearing in big movies such as Oliver Stone's Platoon (1986) and Good Morning, Vietnam (1987, starring Robin Williams). His portrayal of jazz great Charlie Parker in Clint Eastwood's Bird (1988), along with his role as a confused British soldier in The Crying Game (1992), proved his ability to play complex characters and gave him a reputation as a "serious" actor. During the 1990s Whitaker excelled at playing menacing gentle giants on screen while also producing and directing movies; he starred in Species (1995) and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), and he directed Waiting to Exhale (1995) and Hope Floats (1998). Already known for a quirky intensity, Whitaker cranked it up a notch in 2006 in a season-long role on the cable TV series The Shield (starring Michael Chiklis) before his Oscar success with The Last King of Scotland. His other films include Panic Room (2000, starring Jodie Foster), Phone Booth (2002, starring Colin Farrell), Where the Wild Things Are (2009, starring Max Records) and Repo Men (2010, co-starring Jude Law).
Extra credit: Regarding his slightly droopy left eye, Whitaker once told Esquire magazine, simply, "It's a genetic thing. My dad had it and now I have it."
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