" `Butt Naked' was my nickname for a long time on movie sets because when I had a love scene, I'd run butt naked through the set just to show them, `Who cares?' “ Cuba Gooding Jr.
In Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire (1996, starring Tom Cruise), Cuba Gooding Jr. won an Academy Award for his supporting role of football player Rod Tidwell. The actor, who got his first major role in Boyz N the Hood (1991), later played roles in such films as Lightning Jack (1994), As Good as It Gets (1997), What Dreams May Come (1998), Instinct (1999), Men of Honor (2000), Pearl Harbor (2001) and Rat Race (2001).
Gooding Jr. received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2002 and continued to act in movies like Snow Dogs (2002), Boat Trip (2002), The Fighting Temptations (2003) and Radio (2003).
5'10 inches tall Cuba Gooding Jr. was one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People in the World (1997)” and John Willis' Screen World’s “Promising New Actors of 1991” (Vol. 43). The distinguished African-American actor will soon complete his upcoming films, End Game, and Dirty.
Childhood and Family:
The son of musicians Cuba Gooding (lead singer for the '70s rhythm and blues group The Main Ingredient) and Shirley Gooding (was a backup singer for The Sweethearts), Cuba Gooding Jr. was born on January 2, 1968, in The Bronx, New York. He is the older brother of actor Omar Gooding (born in October 19, 1976, appeared in Hangin' with Mr. Cooper) and has one sister. Following The Main Ingredient’s hit single "Everybody Plays the Fool" in 1972, his father uprooted the family to Los Angeles, but dumped the family two years later.
Cuba Gooding Jr. attended four different high schools in Southern California and was voted class president in three of them. He later studied traditional Japanese martial arts for three years.
While in high school, Cuba met and fell in love with Sara Kapfer (now a school teacher). After living together for seven years, the couple exchanged wedding vows on March 13, 1994. They have two sons: Mason (born in 1996) and Spencer Gooding (born in 1993). Gooding Jr. and his family now live in Studio City, California, and are expecting their third child in early fall, 2005.
Men of Honor
"I've always been a sucker for attention." Cuba Gooding Jr.
In the Drama Teachers' Association of Southern California drama festival competition, Cuba Gooding Jr. made his early acting performance and became runner up in his first year of competition. He rejoined the competition in the following year and won first place, thanks to his performance of a monologue from Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night." The subsequent years, Gooding Jr. worked as a construction worker, busboy and weed picker until he got his first professional job as a break-dancer for Lionel Richie at the 1984 Olympic Games. His performance in the prestigious sports’ event attracted the attention of eccentric Hollywood agent Coralie Jr.
Soon after getting an agent, Gooding Jr. was seen on television. He played a thug on NBC’s "Hill Street Blues" in October 1986, reappeared in the series with a different role in March 1987 and did several TV commercials as well. Two years later, Gooding Jr. landed on the silver screen in John Landis' romantic comedy Coming to America (1988, starring Eddie Murphy). After playing another bit part in writer-director William Sachs' thriller Judgement (1989), Gooding Jr. won his first significant role as Stanley, opposite Peter Dobson and Lorraine Bracco, in Richard J. Baskin's Sing (1989). That same year (until 1991), he played a minimal recurring role as Billy Colton on ABC's "MacGyver" and also played Ray Collins in a 1989 episode of the series.
The emotionally tormented Tre Styles, in writer-director John Singleton's crime drama Boyz n the Hood (1991, with Ice Cube and Laurence Fishburne), was Gooding Jr.’s breakout role. He followed it up with roles in Murder Without Motive: The Edmund Perry Story (TV), Gladiator (1992), and the blockbuster A Few Good Men (1992, starring Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson). In 1993's Daybreak and Judgment Night, filmmaker Simon Wincer cast him to play Ben Doyle (role originally intended for a dog), Paul Hogan's mute hostage, in the western comedy Lightning Jack (1994). He later could be seen in 1995’s Outbreak, Losing Isaiah and The Tuskegee Airmen (TV).
I came in there and did everything I had to do and the rest was history. So it was never like me sitting going 'Ah, there's Tom!' To me, it was like that son of a bitch was holding me back from doing what I had to do.” Cuba Gooding Jr (on his final audition for Jerry Maguire).
1996 marked the real breakthrough for Gooding Jr. when writer-director Cameron Crowe cast him opposite Tom Cruise, playing egomaniacal football player Rod Tidwell, in his acclaimed film Jerry Maguire (1996). His brilliant acting performance gathered rave reviews and won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The next years, Gooding Jr. played a gay art dealer in James L. Brooks' comedy As Good as It Gets (1997, starring Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt and Greg Kinnear) and gained critical praise for playing Robin Williams' friendly guardian angel in Vincent Ward's adaptation of Richard Matheson's novel, What Dreams May Come (1998).
The rest of the 1990s saw Gooding Jr. brightly smiling in a series of Pepsi One commercials. He also continued working on films, both producing and starring as bootleg attorney Lawson Russell in A Murder of Crows (aired on Cinemax). Gooding Jr. played a mysterious ice cream deliveryman, trying to prevent a chemical weapon from exploding, in Hugh Johnson's Chill Factor (with Skeet Ulrich) and became Anthony Hopkins’ ambitious psychiatrist in Jon Turteltaub’s adaptation of a book by Daniel Quinn, Instinct (1999). In May of 1999, Gooding Jr. hosted the "Saturday Night Live" show.
Gooding Jr. starred as Carl Brashear, the first African-American diver for the Navy, in George Tillman Jr.'s inspirational, true-life based film, Men of Honor (2000, opposite Robert De Niro). He then played a cameo role in Michael Bay's epic Pearl Harbor (with Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale) and portrayed a hated NFL referee in Jerry Zucker's comedy Rat Race (with Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Lovitz and Rowan Atkinson).
After appearing as Draven for In the Shadows, and as himself in Zoolander (both in 2001), Gooding Jr. starred as a Miami dentist, who inherits a team of sled dogs, in Brian Levant's comedy, inspired by Gary Paulsen's book, Snow Dogs, and costarred with Horatio Sanz in Mort Nathan's comedy Boat Trip. In 2003, Gooding Jr. starred as slick-talking, New York City advertising executive Darrin Fox, opposite Beyonce Knowles, in Jonathan Lynn's gospel feature The Fighting Temptations, and played the title role of Radio, the illiterate, mentally-challenged man in Michael Tollin's football drama with the same name, opposite Ed Harris.
More recent, Gooding Jr. provided his voice to Home on the Range and costarred with Helen Mirren, playing her lover and stepson, in Lee Daniels' thriller drama Shadowboxer (2005). As for his next film projects, he will star in Andy Cheng's action thriller End Game and in Chris Fisher's crime thriller Dirty.
"I have never made a decision based on race and never will. I am admiring of my fellow peers, black film-makers and black actors and actresses. When Halle and Denzel won Oscars, I felt pride because I was black, but never did I analyze their win based on color." Cuba Gooding Jr.