Forest Whitaker (Actor)
Forest Steven Whitaker III (born July 15, 1961) is an American actor, producer, and director.
Whitaker has earned a reputation for intensive character study work for films such as Bird, The Crying Game, Platoon, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, The Great Debaters, The Butler and Arrival. He has also appeared in blockbusters such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Saw Gerrera and Black Panther as Zuri. He also appeared in Taken 3, a 2014 English-language French action thriller film directed by Olivier Megaton and written by Luc Besson.
For his performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 2006 film The Last King of Scotland, Whitaker won the Academy Award, BAFTA Award, Golden Globe Award, National Board of Review Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and various critics groups’ awards for a lead acting performance.
Early life and education
Whitaker was born on July 15, 1961 in Longview, Texas, the son of Laura Francis (née Smith), a special education teacher who put herself through college and earned two master’s degrees while raising her children, and Forest Steven Whitaker Jr., an insurance salesman.
A DNA test has shown that his mother had Akan ancestry, while his father was of Igbo descent.When Whitaker was four, his family moved to Carson, California Whitaker has two younger brothers, Kenn and Damon, and an older sister, Deborah. His first role as an actor was the lead in Dylan Thomas‘ play Under Milk Wood
Whitaker attended Palisades Charter High School and played on the football team and sang in the choir, graduating in 1979. Whitaker entered California State Polytechnic University, Pomona on a football scholarship, but a back injury made him change his major to music (singing). He toured England with the Cal Poly Chamber Singers in 1980. While still at Cal Poly, he briefly changed his major to drama. He was accepted to the Music Conservatory at the University of Southern California to study opera as a tenor, and subsequently was accepted into the University’s Drama Conservatory. He graduated from USC with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Acting in 1982. He also earned a scholarship to the Berkeley, California, branch of the Drama Studio London.
Whitaker has a long history of working with well-regarded film directors and actors. In his first onscreen performance of note, he had a supporting role playing a high school football player in the 1982 film version of Cameron Crowe‘s coming-of-age teen-retrospective Fast Times at Ridgemont High. In 1986, he appeared in Martin Scorsese‘s The Color of Money and Oliver Stone‘s Platoon. The following year, he co-starred in the comedy Good Morning, Vietnam. In 1988, Whitaker appeared in the film Bloodsport and had his first lead role starring as musician Charlie “Bird” Parker in Clint Eastwood‘s Bird. To prepare himself for the part, he sequestered himself in a loft with only a bed, couch, and saxophone, having also conducted extensive research and taken alto sax lessons. His performance, which has been called “transcendent”, earned him the Best Actor award at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival and a Golden Globe nomination.
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. 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 Academy Award for Best Actor, 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 the British Academy Film Award, Golden Globe Award, National Board of Review Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and accolades from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, London Film Critics’ Circle Award, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, National Society of Film Critics, and New York Film Critics Circle among others.
In 1996, Whitaker married actress Keisha Nash, whom he met on the set of Blown Away. They have four children: two daughters together (Sonnet and True), and his son (Ocean) and her daughter (Autumn) from their previous relationships.
Whitaker’s left eye ptosis has been called “intriguing” by some critics and gives him “a lazy, contemplative look”.Whitaker has explained that the condition is hereditary and that he has considered having surgery to correct it, not for cosmetic reasons but because it affects his vision.