Actor, producer, director. Born Forest Steven Whitaker on July 15, 1961 in Longview, Texas. Whitaker was a star quarterback in high school and won a scholarship to play at California State Polytechnic University. After being sidelined with an injury, he transferred to the University of Southern California to study opera and drama.
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 1980s, 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; films include 1995’s Waiting to Exhale and 2004’s First Daughter.
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. The role earned him numerous accolades, including the Best Actor Academy Award .
Whitaker married actress Keisha Whitaker in 1996; they have two daughters. He has a son and she has a daughter from previous relationships.