Birthplace: Longview, Texas
Whitaker attended USC on a classical music scholarship before making his film debut in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). He appeared in The Color of Money (1986), Bird (1988), for which he won a Best Actor award at Cannes, and The Crying Game (1992), among other films, and made his big-budget directing debut with HBO's Strapped (1993). He won Best New Director at the Toronto Film Festival and went on to direct Waiting to Exhale (1995) Hope Floats (1998), and First Daughter (2004). Recent film appearances include Ready to Wear (1994), Smoke (1995), Phenomenon (1996), Panic Room (2002), and American Gun (2005). He played Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland (2006).