Gooding, Cuba, Jr. 1968–
Gooding, Cuba, Jr. 1968–
Full name, Cuba M. Gooding, Jr.; born January 2, 1968, in the Bronx, New York, NY; son of Cuba, Sr. (a singer) and Shirley (a singer) Gooding; brother of Omar Gooding (an actor); married Sara Kapfer (a teacher), March 13, 1994; children: Spencer, Mason, Piper. Education: Studied martial arts. Religion: Christian.
Agent—Creative Artists Agency, 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Manager—Michael Rotenberg, 3 Arts Entertainment, 9460 Wilshire Blvd., Seventh Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
Actor. Goodbro Picture Entertainment, cofounder; Feel Good Films, partner. Worked as a backup dancer. As a member of the Majestic Vision Breakdancers, dancer at the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games, Los Angeles, 1984. Appeared in advertisements. Held various jobs.
Screen Actors Guild.
Winner and second place finisher in various competitions affiliated with the Drama Teachers' Association of Southern California; Young Artist Award nomination, best young actor guest starring in a television series, Young Artist Foundation, 1990, for MacGyver; named one of the promising new actors of 1991, John Willis' Screen World, 1991; Special Award, newcomer of the year, ShoWest Convention, National Association of Theatre Owners, 1992; Image Award nomination, outstanding supporting actor in a motion picture, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 1996, for Outbreak; Image Award nomination, outstanding actor in a television movie, miniseries, or drama special, 1996, for The Tuskegee Airmen; Academy Award, best actor in a supporting role, Screen Actors Guild Award, outstanding performance by a male actor in a supporting role, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award and Chicago Film Critics Award, both best supporting actor, Golden Satellite Award, best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a motion picture—comedy or musical, International Press Academy, American Comedy Award, funniest supporting actor in a motion picture, Blockbuster Entertainment Award, favorite supporting actor—comedy/romance, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a motion picture, and Image Award nomination, outstanding lead actor in a motion picture, all 1997, for Jerry Maguire; Special Award, supporting actor of the year, ShoWest Convention, 1997; Golden Satellite Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a motion picture—comedy or musical, 1998, for As Good as It Gets; Blockbuster Entertainment Award, favorite supporting actor—drama/romance, and Image Award nomination, outstanding supporting actor in a motion picture, both 1999, for What Dreams May Come; Image Award nomination, outstanding actor in a motion picture, and Black Reel Award nomination, best theatrical actor, both 2001, for Men of Honor; received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2002; Image Award, outstanding actor in a motion picture, 2004, and Camie award (with others), Character and Morality in Entertainment awards, 2005, both for Radio; Black Movie Award nomination, outstanding performance by an actor in a leading role, 2006, for Shadowboxer; Screen Actors Guild Award nomination (with others), outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture, 2008, for American Gangster.
Boy getting haircut, Coming to America (also known as Prince in New York), Paramount, 1988.
Stanley (Stan), Sing (musical), TriStar, 1989.
Tre Styles, Boyz n the Hood (also known as Boys in the Hood, A malta do bairro, Boyz n the Hood—Jungs im Viertel, Boyz n the Hood—kulman kundit, Boyz n the Hood—strade violente, Fekete videk, La loi de la rue, Los chicos del barrio, Os donos da rua, and Ta paidia tis geitonias), Columbia, 1991.
Abraham Lincoln Haynes, Gladiator, Columbia, 1992.
Corporal Carl Edward Hammaker, A Few Good Men, Columbia, 1992.
Officer Alvarez, Hitz (also known as Judgment), Vidmark Entertainment, 1992.
Mike Peterson, Judgment Night, Universal, 1993.
Ben Doyle, Lightning Jack (also known as Jack colpo di fulmine, Jack, o relampago, Relampago Jack, and Salama-Jack), Savoy Pictures, 1994.
(Uncredited) Tony, Blown Away, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1994.
Eddie Hughes, Losing Isaiah, Paramount, 1995.
Major Salt, Outbreak (also known as A virus, Alerte!, Epidemia, Esclat, Estallido, Fora de controlo, Hitpar'tzoot, I farozonen, Izbruh, Outbreak—I farozonen, Outbreak—Lautlose Killer, Tehdit, Tuntematon uhka, and Virus letale), Warner Bros., 1995.
Rod Tidwell, Jerry Maguire (also known as The Agent), TriStar, 1996.
Frank Sachs, As Good as It Gets (also known as Old Friends), Sony Pictures Entertainment, 1997.
Liquor store clerk, Do Me a Favor (also known as Dead End and Trading Favors), Imperial Entertainment, 1997.
Albert Lewis, What Dreams May Come, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, 1998.
Himself, Welcome to Hollywood, Phaedra Cinema/PM Entertainment Group, 1998.
Arlo, Chill Factor, Warner Bros., 1999.
Theo Calder, Instinct (also known as Ishmael), Buena Vista, 1999.
Chief Carl Brashear, Men of Honor (also known as The Diver, Men of Honour, Navy Diver, Barbati de onoare, Ferfibecsuelet, Hombres de honor, Homens de honra, Kunnian puolesta, Les chemins de la dignite, L'honneur a tout prix, Maend af aere, and Men of Honor—L'onore degli uomini), Twentieth Century-Fox, 2000.
Himself, Zoolander (also known as Derek Zoolander), Paramount, 2001.
Draven, In the Shadows, Lions Gate Films, 2001.
Owen Templeton, Rat Race (also known as No Brain Race, Course folle, Der Nackte Wahnsinn, El mundo esta loco loco, Esta tudo louco!, Rat Race—Der nackte Wahnsinn, Rat Race—Sk(r)attjakten, Ratas a la carrera, Rottaralli, Sk(r)attjakten, Ta todo mundo louco! Uma corrida por milhoe$, and Ueldoezesi mania), Paramount, 2001.
Petty officer Doris "Dorie" Miller, Pearl Harbor (also known as Pearl Harbour), Buena Vista, 2001.
Dr. Ted Brooks, Snow Dogs (also known as Winterdance, Aventuras en Alaska, Chiens des neiges, Det store slaedelob, Frio de perros, Heranca canina, Kutyababajnok, Lumihauvat, Neve pra cachorro, Snow Dogs—Acht Helden auf vier Pfoten, and Snowdogs—Acht Helden auf vier Pfoten), Buena Vista, 2002.
Jerry Robinson, Boat Trip, Motion Picture Corporation of America, 2002.
Darrin Hill, The Fighting Temptations (also known as Lucha de tentaciones, Resistindo as tentacoes, and Taivaallinen viettelys), Paramount, 2003.
James Robert "Radio" Kennedy, Radio, Columbia, 2003.
Voice of Buck, A Dairy Tale (animated short film), Walt Disney Home Video, 2004.
Voice of Buck, Home on the Range (animated; also known as Sweating Bullets), Buena Vista, 2004.
Officer Salim Adel, Dirty, Silver Nitrate Releasing, 2005.
Alex Thomas, End Game, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 2006.
Mikey, Shadowboxer (also known as The Contract), Freestyle Releasing, 2006.
Lightfield's Home Videos, Big Screen Entertainment Group, 2006.
Charlie Hinton, Daddy Day Camp, TriStar, 2007.
Himself, Hollywood on Fire (documentary), Saylor Brothers Entertainment/Outlast Innertainment, 2007.
Deion Hughes, Norbit, DreamWorks, 2007.
Liam Case, Hero Wanted, Nu Image Films, 2007.
Nicky Barnes, American Gangster (also known as The Return of Superfly and Tru Blu), Universal, 2007.
Tom, What Love Is, Big Sky Motion Pictures, 2007.
Voice of Loofah, The Land before Time XIII: The Wisdom of Friends (animated), Universal, 2007.
Michael Dixon, Linewatch, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2008.
School janitor, Harold, City Lights Pictures, 2008.
The Way of War, Story Teller Pictures, 2008.
Appeared in other film projects.
Producer, Harold, City Lights Pictures, 2008.
Television Appearances; Series:
Himself, The Entertainment Business (documentary; also known as Bravo Profiles: The Entertainment Business), BBC and Bravo, 1998.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Himself, I Love the '80s, VH1, 2002.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Kill or Be Killed, NBC, 1990.
Tyree, Murder with Motive: The Edmund Perry Story (also known as Best Intentions), NBC, 1992.
Torch, Daybreak (also known as Bloodstream), HBO, 1993.
Billy "A-Train" Roberts, The Tuskegee Airmen, HBO, 1995.
Russell Lawson (some sources cite role as Lawson Russell), A Murder of Crows (also known as Confession, Murder of Crows, A Murder of Crows—Diabolische Versuchung, Analisi di un delitto, L'empreinte des corbeaux, Murhat kovissa kansissa, Nido de cuervos, and Relatos de um crime), Cinemax, 1999.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Paul, "No Means No," CBS Schoolbreak Special, CBS, 1988.
Cool People, Hot Places, ABC and syndicated, 1993.
Himself, America: A Tribute to Heroes, multiple networks, 2001.
Himself, Christmas in Tinseltown, BBC, 2001.
Himself, Journey to the Screen: The Making of "Pearl Harbor" (also known as Pearl Harbor: A Journey to the Screen), Black Entertainment Television, 2001.
Narrator, Above and Beyond: The U.S. Air Force Experience, PAX TV, 2001.
Himself, Muhammad Ali's All-Star 60th Birthday Celebration!, CBS, 2002.
Host, Rockin' for the U.S.A.: A National Tribute to the U.S. Military, CBS, 2002.
Oscar Countdown 2003, ABC, 2003.
Himself, A Capitol Fourth, PBS, 2006.
(In archive footage) Himself, Celebrity Debut, ABC and Independent Television 2 (England), 2006.
Host, When Parents Are Deployed, PBS, 2006.
(Uncredited; in archive footage) Tre Styles, Boffo! Tinseltown's Bombs and Blockbusters, HBO and The Movie Network (Canada), 2006.
Himself, Movies Rock, CBS, 2007.
(Uncredited; in archive footage) Himself, Saturday Night Live in the '90s: Pop Culture Nation, NBC, 2007.
Presenter, Fashion Rocks, CBS, 2007.
Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:
The Fourth Annual Desi Awards, syndicated, 1992.
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards, UPN, 1997.
The ShoWest Awards, TNT, 1997.
The 69th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1997.
Presenter, The 70th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1998.
The 24th Annual People's Choice Awards, CBS, 1998.
Fifth Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards (also known as Screen Actors Guild Fifth Annual Awards), TNT, 1999.
Host, VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards, VH1, 2000.
The 32nd Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2001.
E! Entertainer of the Year 2003, E! Entertainment Television, 2003.
The 75th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2003.
Presenter, The 46th Annual Grammy Awards, CBS, 2004.
Presenter, The 30th Annual People's Choice Awards, CBS, 2004.
35th NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2004.
(In archive footage) Ceremonia de clausura, Television Espanola (TVE, Spain), 2005.
Premio Donostia a Willem Dafoe, 2005.
Host, 37th NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2006.
Presenter, The 2006 Black Movie Awards—A Celebration of Black Cinema: Past, Present & Future (also known as The 2006 Black Movie Awards), TNT, 2006.
Presenter, The 12th Annual Critics Choice Awards, E! Entertainment Television, 2007.
Presenter, The 2007 Film Independent Spirit Awards (also known as Film Independent's 2007 Spirit Awards), Independent Film Channel, 2007.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Ethan Dillon, "Suitcase," Hill Street Blues, NBC, 1986.
Contestant, The New Dating Game (also known as The Dating Game), syndicated, c. 1986.
Bobby Devlin, "It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City," The Bronx Zoo, NBC, 1987.
Second gang member, "Days of Swine and Roses," Hill Street Blues, NBC, 1987.
Kenny, "Thelma's Handyman," Amen, NBC, 1988.
Billy Colton, "Black Rhino," MacGyver, ABC, 1989.
Ray Collins, "The Challenge," MacGyver, ABC, 1989.
Skater, "The Real Decoys," 227, NBC, 1989.
Billy Colton, "Serenity," MacGyver, ABC, 1990.
"Night of the Living Shred," Mancuso F.B.I., NBC, 1990.
Billy Colton, "The Coltons," MacGyver, ABC, 1991.
Himself, "Coralie, Jr.," The E! True Hollywood Story (also known as Coralie, Jr.: The E! True Hollywood Story and Hollywood Outsider: Coralie, Jr.: The E! True Hollywood Story), E! Entertainment Television, 1999.
Guest host, Saturday Night Live (also known as NBC's "Saturday Night," Saturday Night, Saturday Night Live '80, SNL, and SNL 25), NBC, 1999.
Himself, "The Making of ‘Men of Honor,’" HBO First Look, HBO, 2000.
Himself, "Filmen ‘Pearl Harbor,’" Nyhetsmorgon, TV4 Sweden, 2001.
Himself, "Pearl Harbor," Beyond the Movie (also known as National Geographic Beyond the Movie: Pearl Harbor and Beyond the Movie: Pearl Harbor), National Geographic Channel, 2001.
Himself, "Pearl Harbor," History vs. Hollywood (also known as History through the Lens and History vs. Hollywood: Pearl Harbor), History Channel, 2001.
Himself, "Steal vs Slashers & Bouncers vs Rumble," Slamball, The National Network, 2002.
(In archive footage) Himself, Celebrities Uncensored, E! Entertainment Television, 2003.
Himself, MAD TV (also known as Mad TV and MADtv), Fox, 2003.
(Uncredited) Himself, "Season Finale," The Contender, NBC, 2005.
Himself, "American Gangster," HBO First Look, HBO, 2007.
Himself, "Norbit," HBO First Look, HBO, 2007.
Appeared as Tommy Taylor in The Untouchables, syndicated; also appeared in other programs, including Jake and the Fatman, CBS.
Television Guest Appearances; Episodic:
The Dennis Miller Show, syndicated, 1992.
The Arsenio Hall Show (also known as Arsenio), syndicated, 1993.
The Rosie O'Donnell Show, syndicated, 1996.
Mundo VIP, SIC Televisao (Portugal), 1999.
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NBC, multiple appearances, beginning 2001.
This Hour Has 22 Minutes, CBC, 2002.
The Daily Show (also known as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Global Edition, Ha-Daily Show, and I satira tou Jon Stewart), Comedy Central, 2003.
Extra (also known as Extra: The Entertainment Magazine), syndicated, 2003 (multiple episodes).
Richard & Judy, Channel 4 (England), 2003.
Tinseltown TV (also known as Tinseltown.TV), International Channel, 2003.
V Graham Norton, Channel 4, 2003.
Sunday Morning Shootout, American Movie Classics, 2003, multiple episodes in 2004, 2006.
Entertainment Tonight (also known as Entertainment This Week, E.T., ET Weekend, and This Week in Entertainment), syndicated, 2003, multiple episodes in 2007.
Oprah (also known as The Oprah Winfrey Show), syndicated, 2004.
Magacine, [Spain], 2005.
Corazon de …, Television Espanola (TVE, Spain), 2006 (multiple episodes).
ESPN Hollywood, ESPN, 2006.
Howard Stern on Demand (also known as Howard TV and Howard TV on Demand), iN DEMAND, 2006 (multiple episodes).
In the Mix (also known as In the Cutz), Urban America, 2006.
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (also known as The Late Late Show), CBS, 2006, 2007.
Caiga quien caiga, Telecino (Spain), 2007.
Late Night with Conan O'Brien, NBC, 2007 (multiple episodes).
Live with Regis & Kelly, syndicated, 2007.
Television Work; Movies:
Producer, A Murder of Crows (also known as Confession, Murder of Crows, A Murder of Crows—Diabolische Versuchung, Analisi di un delitto, L'empreinte des corbeaux, Murhat kovissa kansissa, Nido de cuervos, and Relatos de um crime), Cinemax, 1999.
Title role, Othello, California Shakespeare Festival, 1986.
Radio Appearances; Episodic:
Himself, The Howard Stern Show, Howard 100 (Sirius Satellite Radio), 2006 (multiple episodes).
Host, Get a Grip (driver's education video), 1992.
(In archive footage) Himself, Lord Stanley's Cup: Hockey's Ultimate Prize, 2000.
Himself, Making "Rat Race" (short), Paramount, 2001.
Himself, Friendly Fire: Making an Urban Legend (short; also known as Boyz n the Hood: Friendly Fire—Making an Urban Legend), Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment, 2003.
Himself, Gettin' Dirty (short), Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2006.
Inspired by … The Bible Experience: New Testament, Zondervan, 2006.
Inspired by … The Bible Experience: The Complete Bible, Zondervan, 2007.
Inspired by … The Bible Experience: The Easter Story (also known as The Easter Story: The Bible Experience), Zondervan, 2007.
Inspired by … The Bible Experience: Old Testament, Zondervan, 2007.
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 16, Gale, 1997.
Newsmakers 1997, issue 4, Gale, 1997.
American Visions, October/November, 1993, p. 40.
Ebony, June, 1997, p. 44.
Entertainment Weekly, February 21, 1997, p. 92; October 31, 2003, pp. 14-15; February 31, 2006, p. 84.
Jet, April 14, 1997, p. 58.
Los Angeles Times, January 5, 1997.
People Weekly, May 12, 1997, p. 76.
Premiere, January, 1997, p. 37.
Rolling Stone, April 3, 1997.
Sun-Times (Chicago), May 31, 1999.
Total Film, April, 1997, p. 42.
Washington Post, May 30, 1999.
Gooding, Cuba, Jr.
When Cuba Gooding, Jr., delivered his nearly evangelical Academy Award acceptance speech for his performance in the 1996 film Jerry Maguire, audiences cheered for the young actor's unexpected catapult to stardom. However, like most overnight successes, Gooding's was the result of several years of wallowing in the dregs of Hollywood productions. Despite a resounding triumph in the gripping 1991 drama Boyz N the Hood, Gooding quickly found himself with ample talent and credentials but limited outlets. "[T]he truth of the matter is that he is a young black actor," wrote one critic for the Mr. Showbiz Web site, "and after the handful of good roles generally available for black actors is divvied up among [actors] Denzel Washington, Laurence Fishburne, and Wesley Snipes, there aren't many challenging roles left for the Cuba Gooding, Jrs. of today's Hollywood." Nonetheless, a heavy reserve of moxie and a genuine charm boosted Gooding back into a pole position.
Persevered Despite Hard Times
As the son of Cuba Gooding, the lead vocalist for the successful R&B group The Main Ingredient, Cuba Jr. and his brother Omar were both romanced by the entertainment world at an early age. However, shortly after relocating his family from the Bronx, New York, to Los Angeles, California, to accommodate his own career, the elder Gooding forfeited a family life and abandoned his children in 1974. While Gooding Jr.'s subsequent home life was anything but stable—he was in and out of four Southern California high schools—the fledgling entertainer remained a model of positivity, and even managed to become class president at several of his schools.
After several years of acting as well as dancing in school talent shows, Gooding began to make inroads to a proper career. At the age of 16, he made a fairly auspicious professional debut as a member of singer Lionel Richie's breakdancing entourage at the 1984 Olympics. Returning to the small stage, Gooding joined the cast of a production of the play Li'l Abner, which caught the eye of a talent agent who was also the parent of one of Gooding's peers. Under the guidance of his new agent, Gooding soon bagged modest but promising spots in television commercials for Sprite and Bugle Boy Jeans before making his television debut as a supporting character on the gritty police drama Hill Street Blues.
Cast by Singleton for Success, but Faltered
In spite of his initial promise, Gooding found that his avenues of opportunity were limited without formal acting lessons. After enhancing his skills with a personal trainer, Gooding built up his resume with several made for television films, as well as with his big screen initiation, a small but meaty comic bit in the Eddie Murphy vehicle Coming to America. However, it was not until he auditioned for first time director John Singleton's Boyz N the Hood that Gooding's acting abilities truly passed muster with both critics and audiences. As Tre Styles, an amiable teenager struggling to escape his gang infested environment, Gooding found himself riding the crest of one of the year's most acclaimed films. He was given kudos by New York Times film critic Janet Maslin for giving Styles a "gentle, impressionable quality that is most affecting." At the first major juncture of his career, it seemed that Gooding had found the touchstone to serious dramatic opportunities.
Unfortunately, the next several years were less of a gateway towards stardom and more of backward steps towards obscurity. Although Gooding's performances themselves were consistently up to par, he was either buried in lesser supporting roles, as in the 1991 military nailbiter A Few Good Men, or confined to banal box office duds, such as the widely panned boxing film Gladiator, released in 1992, or the dismal action comedy of 1993, Judgment Night. Lightning Jack, a dud released in 1994, may have been Gooding's low point, but his adept performance as a deaf mute did bring to surface the comic flair that would blossom later in Jerry Maguire. Even the impressive Losing Isaiah, a poignant 1995 film involving a custody battle, failed to regain Gooding the footing he deserved, as the film received limited distribution. Only four years after Boyz N the Hood, it seemed that Gooding's career had bottomed out.
In the meantime, Gooding's otherwise lackluster series of roles had allowed him to afford a stable family life, quite the opposite of his negligent father. He married Sara Kapfer, then an elementary school teacher whom Gooding had been dating since high school, in 1994. The couple had three children.
Peaked with Jerry Maguire
Gooding had grown tired of his mediocre castings, no matter how lucrative, and in 1995 began courting director Cameron Crowe for a role in his upcoming film, Jerry Maguire. To land the part, the determined Gooding went on an intensive training program to beef up for the role of professional football player Rod Tidwell. With characteristic verve, Gooding even dropped his pants at a casting call when asked whether he was shy of onscreen nudity. Duly impressed with the actor's much needed energy, Crowe and producer James Brooks quickly tapped Gooding for the role.
When the romantic comedy Jerry Maguire was finally released in 1996, an almost unequivocal rush of commercial and critical approval lifted Gooding from his period of stagnation. Given a rich, witty script, a three-dimensional character, and a high profile star—Tom Cruise—to work with, Gooding was able to turn out a world-class performance that expertly fused brash comedy with dramatic conviction. "Show me the money," a line culled from a hilarious exchange between Gooding and Cruise, became a national catch phrase, and the film headed box office lists for weeks on end.
The overall reviews of the film were positive, but ultimately it was Gooding who received the highest honors. In addition to a Golden Globe Award nomination, Gooding received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor of 1996. At the awards ceremony, the actor delivered a vibrant, genuine acceptance speech that ranked among the most moving in the history of the Oscars. Soon, Gooding was being approached for other high-caliber parts.
At a Glance …
Born on January 2, 1968, in the Bronx, NY; son of Cuba Gooding (singer); brother of Omar Gooding (actor); married Sara Kapfer (elementary school teacher), 1994; children: Spencer, Mason (sons), Piper (daughter).
Career : Olympic Games, breakdance performer, 1984; actor, 1986-.
Awards : Academy Award, Best Supporting Actor, American Comedy Award, Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, and Critics Choice Award, Best Supporting Actor, all for Jerry Maquire, 1996; Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, 2002; NAACP Image Award, 2004, and Camie Award, 2005, for Radio.
Searched for Success after Academy Award
Although Gooding purports to suffer from intolerable seasickness, in 2000 he landed the starring role of the heroic Navy master diver, Carl Brashear, who earned his qualification even with a crippling injury to his leg, in Men of Honor, featuring Robert De Niro and Carl Lumbly. "I'm more proud of Men of Honor than any film I've ever made. You don't have to get too theatrical about his life to present a great story, it's compelling just as it is," Gooding reflected to the Sacramento Observer. Chris Vognar of the Dallas Morning News wrote that it was Gooding's "best role since Jerry Maguire," adding that "Gooding is by turns intense, prideful and jovial." Gooding appeared in a second blockbuster naval feature, Pearl Harbor, as Petty Officer Dorie Miller in 2001. That same summer he was seen as Owen Templeton in Jerry Zucker's zany summertime flick, Rat Race, followed the next year by another farce, Snow Dogs, which topped more than $80 million at the box office.
Despite his inability to win more awards, Gooding appreciated the control he had over his career. "And now I really can take more responsibility, because there is the freedom for me now, and a plethora of different projects for me to choose from," he told Prairie Miller of Star Interviews in 2002. "But when I first started out, hey, I got my SAG card with Thug Number Three on a TV show. I wasn't saying, you know, I don't feel I should start my career off stabbing nobody. Hey, I was stabbing and I had jeans on, and I was running. And I would cut you! And then from that, I did this role, and that role. And it wasn't because I decided that I should be, you know, a street kid. No, it was because those were the jobs that I got. And as an actor, that's how my career started. You have to take what you're given, and just shine in that role. Become that character, you know?"
After appearing in a few critically and popularly successful films, however, Gooding had a hard time finding roles as solid as those that brought his earlier success. In Boat Trip, he played a straight man surprised to find himself on a cruise surrounded by mainly homosexuals; it was a box office flop. The role earned him a Razzie Award nomination for worst actor in 2004. Some critics wondered if Gooding's trouble finding quality work came from his blind pursuit of money, yet others granted him more empathy: "I think Cuba saw himself as an actor who wanted to play characters, despite the fact the script wasn't up to par, or the project wasn't up to par," Dirty director Chris Fisher remarked to Lewis Beale of the New York Times. "He still believed in playing those characters." Gooding did take on a variety of different roles. He played a talent agent in The Fighting Temptations, featuring Beyonce Knowles, and the film won an NAACP Award. Gooding portrayed a mentally challenged man who never went anywhere without his wireless radio in Radio in 2003. For his performance of the character, which was based on a real man named James Robert Kennedy, who was featured in Sports Illustrated in 1996 for his work assisting a high school football team, Gooding won a NAACP Image Award for best actor in 2004.
Gooding even took on roles in small independent films. In Dirty, he played a corrupt L.A. police officer. In Shadowboxer, he played an assassin and earned a nomination for the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Motion Picture award at the Black Movie Awards in 2006. In 2007, his comic appeal was exploited in Eddie Murphy's Norbit, as the scheming fiance of Norbit's childhood sweetheart, and as Eddie Murphy's replacement in the sequel to Daddy Day Care, Daddy Day Camp. Gooding explored his darker side as the notorious criminal Nicky Barnes, a drug dealer who was sentenced to imprisonment for life in 1977 but released into the federal witness protection program in 1998 after becoming a government witness and helping to convict scores of drug dealers, in American Gangster. Gooding was slated to tap his dramatic instincts in the upcoming films Harold, in which he would portray a friendly high school janitor who befriends an outcast student, and Hero Wanted, in which he would play a bank robbery victim who recovers from his near fatal injuries to seek revenge. Though Gooding had yet to regain the critical acclaim of his Jerry Maguire role, he seemed close. Director Lee Daniels noted in 2006 in the New York Times that he thought that such success may be "just a role away" for Gooding.
Coming to America, 1988.
Boyz N the Hood, 1991.
Lightning Jack, 1994.
Losing Isaiah, 1995.
Jerry Maguire, 1996.
What Dreams May Come, 1998.
Men of Honor, 2000.
Pearl Harbor, 2001.
Rat Race, 2001.
Snow Dogs, 2002.
Boat Trip, 2003.
The Fighting Temptations, 2003.
Daddy Day Camp, 2007.
What Love Is, 2007.
Afro-American Star, October 11, 2003, p. B1.
Dallas Morning News, November 10, 2000.
Jet, September 22, 2003, p. 58.
Los Angeles Times, January 3, 1997, p. F4.
New York Times, July 12, 1991, p. C1; February 19, 2006, p. 2.20; March 4, 2007, p. 1.27.
Philadelphia Weekly, March 28, April 3, 2007, p. 43.
Rolling Stone, August 8, 1991, p. 78.
Sacramento Observer, November 15, 2000, p. E7.
Sports Illustrated, October 27, 2003, p. 28.
Star Interviews, February 4, 2002, p. 1.