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)
Made film acting debut as a high school football player in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"
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)
Made TV miniseries debut as Cuffey in "North and South" (ABC)
Acted in Martin Scorsese's "The Color of Money" and Oliver Stone's "Platoon"
Reprised role of Cuffey in "North and South: Book II" (ABC)
Directed first major stage production "Dreams Across the Realm"
Cast in high-profile supporting role in "Good Morning, Vietnam" opposite Robin Williams
Landed first starring feature role as jazz legend Charlie Parker in Clint Eastwood's "Bird"
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
Feature producing debut (also acted), "A Rage in Harlem"; directed by Bill Duke
Played British soldier kidnapped by IRA terrorists in Neil Jordan's "The Crying Game"
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)
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
Feature film directorial debut, "Waiting to Exhale"; co-starred Angela Bassett and Whitney Houston
Helmed second film "Hope Floats," starring Sandra Bullock
Signed development deal with Columbia-TriStar
Starred as the titular character of Jim Jarmusch's "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai"
Played a Federal Marshall in HBO's "Witness Protection"
Portrayed Ker in "Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000," based on novel by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard
Starred opposite Jeremy Irons in the thriller "The Fourth Angel"
Featured in Sundance-screened "The Green Dragon"
Played one of a trio terrorizing a woman and her child while looking for missing money in "Panic Room"
Hosted classic mystery series "The Twilight Zone" (UPN)
Cast as senior officer Captain Ramey in the suspense thriller "Phone Booth"
Appeared in the Showtime movie "Deacons for Defense"; received a SAG nomination for Best Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Directed (also produced) Katie Holmes in "First Daughter"
Joined the cast of FX's "The Shield" for the fifth season, playing a cop from internal affairs
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
Offered Oscar-winning performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland"
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
Co-stared with Denzel Washington (who also directed) in "The Great Debaters"
Voiced Ira in Spike Jonze's live-action adaptation of Maurice Sendak's children's book "Where the Wild Things Are"
Executive produced Sundance Channel docu-series "Brick City"
Co-starred with Jude Law in futuristic thriller "Repo Men"
Co-starred in action thriller "A Dark Truth"
Cast opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in action feature "The Last Stand"
Led the large cast of "The Butler"