Forest Whitaker is an award-winning actor, producer and director. Whitaker made his feature film debut in 1982’s seminal teen comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High, with Nicolas Cage and Sean Penn. The versatile actor appeared in several acclaimed films throughout the ’80s, including Platoon, Good Morning, Vietnam and The Color of Money. In 1988, his turn as musician Charlie Parker in Clint Eastwood’s dark biopic Bird won him the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival.
Whitaker soon expanded to producing and directing, having particular success in television with such projects as 1993’s gritty urban film Strapped for HBO and 2002’s Emmy-winning Door to Door starring William H. Macy. He also directed for the big screen; his films include 1995’s Waiting to Exhale, an adaptation of the Terry McMillan novel that starred Whitney Houston and Angela Bassett, and 2004’s First Daughter, a romantic comedy starring Katie Holmes. Whitaker has directed a number of music videos as well, including Houston’s “Exhale (Shoop Shoop).”
In 2006, Whitaker made several notable television appearances, including the role of a troubled internal affairs cop on FX’s award-winning The Shield and a riveting turn as a stroke patient on ER. That year, he won critical acclaim for his powerful performance as dictator Idi Amin in the film The Last King of Scotland (2006). The role earned him numerous accolades, including the Best Actor Academy Award.
Whitaker’s filmography expanded throughout the decade, with the thespian providing thoughtful commentary on some of his work in interviews. In 2007, he starred in The Great Debaters, a film directed by Denzel Washington that focused on a trailblazing African-American college team. In 2013, he starred in the biopic The Butler, directed by Lee Daniels and co-starring Oprah Winfrey, which tells the story of Eugene Allen, who worked in the White House with eight consecutive U.S. presidents.