Forest Whitaker

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Forest Whitaker : biography

July 15, 1961 –

Whitaker’s 2006 portrayal of Idi Amin in the film, The Last King of Scotland earned him positive reviews by critics as well as multiple awards and honors. To portray the dictator, Whitaker gained 50 pounds, learned to play the accordion, and immersed himself in research. CBS News/ February 4, 2007. He read books about Amin, watched news and documentary footage featuring Amin, 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. His performance earned him the 2007 Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, making him the fourth African-American actor in history to do so, joining the ranks of Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, and Jamie Foxx. For that same role, he was also recognized with a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award, 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 among others.

In 2007, Whitaker played Dr. James Farmer Sr. in The Great Debaters, for which he received an Image Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor. In 2008, Whitaker appeared in three films, first as a business man known only as Happiness, who likes butterflies, in the film The Air I Breathe. He also portrayed a rogue police captain in Street Kings, and a heroic tourist in Vantage Point.

Television work

After completing several films in the early 1980s, Whitaker gained additional roles in multiple television shows. On the series, Diff’rent Strokes, he played a bully in the 1985 episode "Bully for Arnold". That same year, Whitaker also played the part of a comic book salesman in the Amazing Stories episode "Gather Ye Acorns". He appeared in the first and second parts of North and South in 1985 and 1986. Throughout the 1990s, Whitaker mainly had roles in television films, including Criminal Justice, The Enemy Within, and Witness Protection.

From 2002 to 2003, Whitaker was the host and narrator of 44 new episodes of the Rod Serling classic, The Twilight Zone, which lasted one season on UPN. epguides.com. After working in several film roles, he returned to television in 2006 when he joined the cast of FX’s police serial The Shield, as Lieutenant Jon Kavanaugh, who was determined to prove that the lead character, Vic Mackey, is a dirty cop. As opposed to his previous character work, Whitaker stated that he merely had to draw on his childhood years growing up in South Central Los Angeles for the role. He received rave reviews for his performance—Variety called it a "crackling-good guest stint"Lowry, Brian. Variety. March 27, 2007.—and he reprised the role in the show’s 2007 season.

In the fall of 2006, Whitaker started a 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 Kovač and Abby Lockhart. Whitaker received a 2007 Emmy Award nomination for his performance on the series. Also in 2006, Whitaker appeared in T.I.’s music video "Live in the Sky" alongside Jamie Foxx.

Whitaker was cast in the Criminal Minds spin-off, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, that was subsequently cancelled by CBS on May 17, 2011.

Producing and directing

Whitaker branched out into producing and directing in the 1990s. He co-produced and co-starred in A Rage in Harlem in 1991. 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, which was based on the Terry McMillan novel of the same name. Roger Ebert observed that the tone of the film resembled Whitaker’s own acting style: "measured, serene, confident."Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times. December 22, 1995. Whitaker also directed co-star Whitney Houston’s music video of the movie’s theme song, "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)".

Whitaker continued his directing career with the 1998 romantic comedy, Hope Floats, starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick, Jr. He directed Katie Holmes in the romantic comedy, First Daughter in 2004; he had co-starred with Holmes in Phone Booth in 2002. Whitaker served as an executive producer on First Daughter. He had previously gained experience as the executive producer of several made-for-television movies, most notably the 2002 Emmy-award winning Door to Door, starring William H. Macy. He produced these projects through his production company, Spirit Dance Entertainment, which he shut down in 2005 to concentrate on his acting career.

Whitaker was one of the producers of the film Fruitvale Station, which won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.