Forest Whitaker is an American actor, producer and director best known for his roles in the films ‘The Last King of Scotland’ and ‘Bird’. Whitaker attended California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and was a college football player but a back injury made him shift to drama and opera. He began his journey in films with ‘Tag: The Assassination Game’ and first tasted success with his second release ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’. He appeared in several acclaimed movies such as ‘Platoon’, ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’, ‘Ready to Wear’, ‘The Way of the Samurai’, ‘Panic Room’ and many others over the years. He also made appearances in popular television shows and made his debut as a director with ‘Strapped’. Forest won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in ‘The Last King of Scotland’ and has also been honored with the Hollywood Actor of the Year Award along with several other honors and awards. He is married to the actress, Keisha Nash.
Childhood & Early Life
Forest Whitaker was born on July 15, 1961 in Longview, Texas, U.S. His mother, Laura Francis was a special education teacher while his father, Forest Steven Jr., was an insurance salesman. He has two younger brothers, Kenn and Damon and an older sister, Deborah.
He went to the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and was a college football player. A backbone injury made him shift his major to music. He later opted for major in drama and was accepted to study opera the Music Conservatory at the University of Southern California, and subsequently to the Drama Conservatory of the university. He graduated in 1982.
He was granted a scholarship to the Berkeley, California branch of the Drama Studio London. In the 1980s, he also toured England with Cal Poly Chamber Singers.
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Forest Whitaker debuted in films in 1982 with ‘Tag: The Assassination Game’ and appeared in ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’ later the same year. He appeared in ‘Vision Quest’ and ‘North and South’ in 1985.
Venturing into television as well, he appeared in minor roles in various popular television shows such as ‘Different Strokes’ (1985), ‘The Fall Guy’ (1985) and ‘Amazing Stories’ (1986).
He starred in ‘The Color of Money’ and ‘Platoon’ in 1986 followed by ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ in 1987. After his release ‘Bloodsport’ in 1988, he played his first role as a lead actor in ‘Bird’ (1988). He received the Best Actor award for his performance at Cannes Film Festival, 1988, and was also nominated at the Golden Globe Awards.
He acted in ‘Downtown’ (1990), ‘Diary of a Hitman’ (1991), ‘A Rage in Harlem’ (1991), ‘Article 99’ (1992) and ‘Consenting Adults’ (1992). He played the role of a confused British soldier in ‘The Crying Game’ in 1992.
Forest Whitaker stepped into the world of direction with ‘Strapped’ in 1993. He gave powerful performances in ‘Bank Robber’ and ‘Body Snatchers’ in 1993 and ‘Blown Away’, ‘Prêt-à-Porter’ and ‘Jason’s Lyric’ in 1994. He starred as Colonel MacKenzie 'Mac' Casey in the television movie ‘The Enemy Within’ in 1994. His role in ‘Smoke’ in 1995 was characteristically emotional.
He directed ‘Waiting to Exhale’ in 1995 and ‘Hope Floats’ in 1998. Forest played the role of a serene and mob hit man in ‘Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai’ in 1999. His film ‘Battlefield Earth’ has been included in the list of worst films ever made and was widely criticized.
He starred in ‘Four Dogs Playing Poker’ (2000), ‘The Fourth Angel’ (2001), ‘The Hire: The Follow’ (2001) and ‘Green Dragon’ (2001). His performance in ‘Panic Room’ in 2002 earned him several nominations under the category of best supporting actor. He hosted and narrated 44 episodes of ‘The Twilight Zone’ in 2002-03.
He directed and acted in ‘First Daughter’ in 2004 and gave a wonderful performance in ‘American Gun’ in 2005. He also appeared in ‘Mary’ (2005), ‘Even Money’ (2006) and ‘The Marsh’ (2006).
Forest Whitaker played the role of Idi Amin in ‘The Last King of Scotland’ in 2006 for which he received various awards and honors. He received an award for his supporting role in ‘The Great Debaters’ in 2007.
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He acted in three films in 2008: ‘Vantage Point’, ‘Street Kings’ and ‘Dragon Hunters’. He appeared in a few independent releases and gave yet another soulful performance in ‘Lee Daniels' The Butler’ in 2013 for which he received various awards and nominations. He co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘The Last Stand’ in 2013.
Whitaker starred in ‘Taken 3’ (2015), ‘Dope’ (2015), and ‘Southpaw’ (2015) for which he earned a couple of nominations. In 2016, he starred as Saw Gerrera in ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ and as Colonel Webber in ‘Arrival’. He made his Broadway debut in 2016 in the play ‘Hughie’ at the Booth Theatre. He is currently filming ‘Burden’, ‘Finding Steve McQueen’, ‘Labyrinth’ and ‘Black Panther’.
Forest Whitaker is best known for his role in ‘The Last King of Scotland’ which gave him an Academy Award for Best Actor in 2006 along with numerous other awards and nominations. The film was widely acclaimed by the critics and the audiences.
His performance as Cecil Gaines in ‘Lee Daniels' The Butler’ in 2013 earned him the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture along with various other awards and nominations. The film is one of his greatest critical and commercial successes till date.
Awards & Achievements
Forest Whitaker won the Best Actor Award at Cannes Film Festival in 1988 for ‘Bird.’ He also won an International Critics' Award for ‘Strapped’ in Toronto International Film Festival in 1993. He received Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Supporting Actor for ‘Phenomenon’ in 1996.
He received the Academy Award for Best Actor, African-American Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor, BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and BET Award for Best Actor for ‘The Last King of Scotland’ in 2006.
He won African-American Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor and NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture for ‘Lee Daniels' The Butler’ in 2013.
Forest received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Xavier University of Louisiana in 2009 at the 82nd Commencement Ceremony. He also received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from California State University, Dominguez Hills on May 16, 2015.
Personal Life & Legacy
Forest Whitaker has been married to actress Keisha Nash since 1996. The couple has two daughters, Sonnet and True from their marriage. Forest has a son, Ocean, and Keisha has a daughter, Autumn, from their respective previous relationships.
He is a vegetarian and promotes the same through People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He was inducted as the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Peace and Reconciliation in a ceremony that was held at UNESCO headquarters on June 21, 2011.
He co-founded the International Institute for Peace (IIP) at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey.
Forest Whitaker has a net worth of USD 15 million.