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Forest Whitaker

Forest Whitaker

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Also Known As: Forest Steven Whitaker Died:
Born: July 15, 1961 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Longview, Texas, USA Profession: actor, director, producer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Though actor Forest Whitaker started college on an athletic scholarship, the charismatic and award-winning performer made the unlikely shift from football to studying to become a classical tenor and eventually, an actor. After gaining some attention in several stage musicals, Whitaker made an immediate impression with a small, but memorable role in his feature debut, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982). Following a quick succession of supporting roles in features and on television, he earned his first wave of critical accolades for his portrayal of drug-addicted jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker in "Bird" (1988). Once he was established as a viable leading man, Whitaker easily oscillated between low-budget and studio projects, earning equal acclaim for his performances. Taking his career to the next level, he made several earnest, but ultimately mediocre forays into feature directing - most notably "Waiting to Exhale" (1995) - but continued to churn out one sterling performance after another until finally reaching new heights with his Oscar-winning portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland" (2006), which came hot on the heels of another mesmerizing performance as an...

Though actor Forest Whitaker started college on an athletic scholarship, the charismatic and award-winning performer made the unlikely shift from football to studying to become a classical tenor and eventually, an actor. After gaining some attention in several stage musicals, Whitaker made an immediate impression with a small, but memorable role in his feature debut, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982). Following a quick succession of supporting roles in features and on television, he earned his first wave of critical accolades for his portrayal of drug-addicted jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker in "Bird" (1988). Once he was established as a viable leading man, Whitaker easily oscillated between low-budget and studio projects, earning equal acclaim for his performances. Taking his career to the next level, he made several earnest, but ultimately mediocre forays into feature directing - most notably "Waiting to Exhale" (1995) - but continued to churn out one sterling performance after another until finally reaching new heights with his Oscar-winning portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland" (2006), which came hot on the heels of another mesmerizing performance as an obsessive internal affairs officer on season five of "The Shield" (FX, 2002-08). Both roles only confirmed what many had already known - that Whitaker was one of Hollywood's most versatile, surprising and talented actors of his day.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  First Daughter (2004) Director
2.
  Hope Floats (1998) Director
3.
  Waiting to Exhale (1995) Director
4.
  Strapped (1993) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Taken 3 (2016)
2.
 Southpaw (2015)
3.
 Food Chains (2014)
4.
 Two Men In Town (2014)
5.
6.
7.
 Last Stand, The (2013)
9.
 Vipaka (2013)
10.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Moved with family to Los Angeles, CA at young age
:
Performed in Los Angeles productions after college, including "School Talk" (Mark Taper Forum) and "The Greeks" (Drama Studio London); also acted in "Jesus Christ Superstar," and "Beggar's Opera" (both at California Youth Theater)
1982:
Made film acting debut as a high school football player in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"
1983:
Appeared on various TV series including " Diff'rent Strokes" (NBC), "Hill Street Blues" (NBC, directed by Bill Duke), "Cagney and Lacey" (CBS), and "Amazing Stories" (NBC)
1985:
Made TV miniseries debut as Cuffey in "North and South" (ABC)
1986:
Acted in Martin Scorsese's "The Color of Money" and Oliver Stone's "Platoon"
1986:
Reprised role of Cuffey in "North and South: Book II" (ABC)
1986:
Directed first major stage production "Dreams Across the Realm"
1987:
Cast in high-profile supporting role in "Good Morning, Vietnam" opposite Robin Williams
1988:
Landed first starring feature role as jazz legend Charlie Parker in Clint Eastwood's "Bird"
1988:
Directed music video for Cheryl Pepsii Riley ("Thanks For My Child"); also for rappers Low Key, Soula, and M.C. Supreme for Warner Bros. Records
1991:
Feature producing debut (also acted), "A Rage in Harlem"; directed by Bill Duke
1992:
Played British soldier kidnapped by IRA terrorists in Neil Jordan's "The Crying Game"
1993:
TV-movie directing debut, HBO urban drama "Strapped"; earned director's award for best first feature at Toronto Film Festival; Kiefer Sutherland acted in film and Whitaker repaid the favor by appearing that year in Sutherland's directorial debut "Last Light" (HBO)
1994:
Returned to the world of jazz as trumpeter Buddy Chester, a top sideman who discovers he has a malignant brain tumor, testing his friendship with Jeff Goldblum and Kathy Baker in Showtime's "Lush Life"
:
Formed multimedia company Spirit Dance Entertainment
1995:
Feature film directorial debut, "Waiting to Exhale"; co-starred Angela Bassett and Whitney Houston
1998:
Helmed second film "Hope Floats," starring Sandra Bullock
1998:
Signed development deal with Columbia-TriStar
1999:
Starred as the titular character of Jim Jarmusch's "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai"
1999:
Played a Federal Marshall in HBO's "Witness Protection"
2000:
Portrayed Ker in "Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000," based on novel by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard
2001:
Starred opposite Jeremy Irons in the thriller "The Fourth Angel"
2001:
Featured in Sundance-screened "The Green Dragon"
2002:
Played one of a trio terrorizing a woman and her child while looking for missing money in "Panic Room"
2002:
Hosted classic mystery series "The Twilight Zone" (UPN)
2003:
Cast as senior officer Captain Ramey in the suspense thriller "Phone Booth"
2003:
Appeared in the Showtime movie "Deacons for Defense"; received a SAG nomination for Best Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
2004:
Directed (also produced) Katie Holmes in "First Daughter"
2005:
Joined the cast of FX's "The Shield" for the fifth season, playing a cop from internal affairs
2006:
Played a principal of a violent inner-city school in Aric Avelino's film debut "American Gun"; earned an Independent Spirit Award Nomination for Best Male Lead
2006:
Offered Oscar-winning performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland"
2006:
Guest starred on five episodes of NBC medical drama "ER" as a carpenter who ends up being paralyzed by a stroke after being admitted for a cough; earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
2008:
Co-stared with Denzel Washington (who also directed) in "The Great Debaters"
2009:
Voiced Ira in Spike Jonze's live-action adaptation of Maurice Sendak's children's book "Where the Wild Things Are"
2009:
Executive produced Sundance Channel docu-series "Brick City"
2010:
Co-starred with Jude Law in futuristic thriller "Repo Men"
2013:
Co-starred in action thriller "A Dark Truth"
2013:
Cast opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in action feature "The Last Stand"
2013:
Led the large cast of "The Butler"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Palisades High School: Los Angeles , California -
University of Southern California: Los Angeles , California -
Drama Studio London: Berkeley , California -
California Polytechnic Institute: Pomona , California -

Notes

On November 3, 2001, Whitaker was arrested on suspicion of driving while under the influence.

"As a black man, Mr. Whitaker is especially pleased that some of his parts, including the ones in "Good Morning, Vietnam" and "The Color of Money" and one in Walter Hill's "Johnny Handsome", were at first written for white characters. "I've been more fortunate than a lot of black actors," said Mr. Whitaker. . . ." --From "Switching To a New Camera Angle" by Bernard Weinraub in The New York Times, August 17, 1993

On filming "Strapped" in Brooklyn's Fort Greene district and using community residents in the film: "[Danger] was a big concern of the production team. But it was always my contention that we couldn't ignore the people that were there and move away to shoot the film: That's a big part of the problem, not looking at the situation and dealing with it.

"Once we were there, we had a blast." --Forest Whitaker to Stephen Schaefer in USA Today, August 19, 1993

"Directing is more comfortable for me, because as an actor there's always something inherently false. Because I'm not that person. I can spend a week in jail, but I'm still leaving. I once talked to a shaman who said, 'What makes you think these characters you play aren't real? I think you should examine that.' But it has always been my great frustration as an actor that I can't go deep into the thoughts, feelings and history of the character. As a director, I feel like it's real. I get caught up in the emotions and the story. I like being a storyteller." --Whitaker to Movieline, December 1996

"Both 'Exhale' and 'Hope Floats' are about people overcoming problems, trying to regain belief in themselves. These are themes I'll always address, whether in a male- or female-driven film." --Whitaker to Los Angeles Times, May 24, 1998

"If you enslave people, beat and rape them, separate them from their families, force them to fight against each other--if you create that kind of abuse, of course it's going to be passed down generationally. Since it was only about thirty years ago when we couldn't ride in the front of the bus, there must be some acknowledgment of the past to feel good about yourself now. So to have an African-American film that's yours and is doing well and everybody loves it, that's not only a source of pride but a source of healing. When at a certain point, the healing has actually occurred, you can accept broader themes. Even though Jewish people are doing really well they continually, through their art, remind themselves of their past and recognize themselves as a cultural group ... I feel if you have an acceptance of others you'll find the similarities between you and them are immense. The Judaic tradition and the Egyptian or Yorubic traditions are almost the same." --to Interview, June 1998.

About why he named his daughter True and son Ocean: "I want those names to be their destiny, for my daughter to be honest and my son to be expansive. I try to be like a forest, revitalizing and constantly growing." Forest knows an odd name can be hard for a child: "Kids would tease me, calling me 'Little Bush'. But ... I thought being called Forest helped me find my identity." --Whitaker to Webster Hall curator Baird Jones, quoted in the New York Post, December 11, 1999

Whitaker devotes most of his reading to "ancient texts" and philosophy books. He believes one's name is one's destiny ["I try to be like a forest, revitalizing and constantly growing"]-Whitaker Biography September 2002

Whitaker works closely with a number of charitable organizations. He serves as an Honorary Board Member for Penny Lane, an organization that provides assistance to abused teenagers. He is also involved with 4-D All Stars, a motivational mentor program for teenagers as well as The Watts Cinema Project.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
Raye Dowell. No longer together.
wife:
Keisha Nash. Model, actor. Married in Jamaica in May 1996; met during filming of "Blown Away" (1993), in which she played his girlfriend.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Forest Whitaker Jr. Insurance salesman.
mother:
Laura Whitaker. Teacher. Put herself through college and earned two masters degrees while raising her family.
brother:
Damon Whitaker. Actor. Born c. 1971; played Charlie Parker as a young boy in "Bird".
brother:
Kenn Whitaker.
son:
Ocean Alexander Whitaker. From a previous relationship; born c. 1990; was ring bearer at Whitaker-Nash wedding.
step-daughter:
Autumn. Keisha Nash's daughter from a previous relationship; born c. 1991; flower girl at Whitaker-Nash nuptials.
daughter:
Sonnet Noel Whitaker. Born on October 3, 1996; mother, Keisha Nash.
daughter:
True Isabella Summer Whitaker. Born on July 2, 1998; mother, Keisha Nash.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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