Forest Whitaker won his first Oscar for his leading role as the late Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the film The Last King of Scotland. He's been a successful actor for years, starring in around 30 films and winning a Cannes Best Actor award for his role in 1988's Bird. The director of Hope Floats and Waiting to Exhale, Scotland was really Whitaker's big break as an actor. He also received a Golden Globe for the role.
The All Movie Guide, an encyclopedic wealth of information on movies, has a lengthy bio on Whitaker that notes his early roles in films like Fast Times At Ridgemont High, co-starring Sean Penn, where Whitaker made his debut as a football player (he was also one in real life).
Whitaker is a vegetarian and is featured on the site Go Veg talking about his decision to avoid meat. Watch a video of him and his daughter, True, in a promotion for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.) True is a vegetarian, too.
Whitaker is featured in the Esquire column where we read about Alan Arkin yesterday. Here, the actor refers to the cinema as a "temple," where people convene and have distinctly different reactions and experiences. He discusses his role as Idi Amin and how it caused a dramatic shift in his understanding of his heritage, something he couldn't entirely pinpoint until he was on location in East Africa and meeting many local people.
In an NPR article on his role in Scotland, Whitaker talks with journalist Alex Chadwick about his traditionally soft-spoken roles, and what a novel experience it was to play Idi Amin. Whitaker explains in this Web-exclusive interview that he studied up for months before going to Uganda to learn about Amin and "submerge" himself in the role. Once in Uganda, he interviewed people who knew Amin, and he learned how to come to terms with the mixed feelings that Ugandans have about their former president. Listen to the interview and watch some video clips from the film on NPR's site.
Whitaker's "long walk to fame" is the subject of the British paper the Guardian's article on the actor. The Guardian has a special blog section on their site that covers culture, divided into the categories of film, books, art, music, and theater. Here, experienced journalists contribute their thoughts in a format that's slightly more relaxed than a newspaper, but borrows the same format. This piece on Whitaker, by film critic Ned Beauman, exposes the near-travesty that is Whitaker's slow-brewing career: sure, he had plenty of acting experience under his belt, but as Beauman audaciously says, Whitaker's career was made up of gems alternating with "a cavalcade of duds" until Idi Amin came along.
A good place to see and hear Forest discuss his super-stardom is on the Hollywood Foreign Press Association site, where you can watch a post-Golden Globe interview with the actor. Even though an Oscar win seemed destined from the start of the awards buzz, Whitaker admits, "you never know."