7/15/1961 (58 years old) Longview, Texas, United States
Born in Texas but raised in Southern California, Forest Whitaker initially attended college on a football scholarship but then transferred to USC to focus on classical voice and opera. His strong tenor won Whitaker roles in several local stage productions and a move to New York and Broadway seemed to be the next logical career step. But that all changed when Whitaker landed his first recognizable film role as a linebacker in 1982's Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Strong supporting parts followed in top Hollywood movies (Platoon, The Color of Money, Good Morning, Vietnam) but it was his role in Clint Eastwood's 1988 Bird, a biopic of legendary jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, that cemented Whitaker's reputation as a legitimate actor with a wide range. During the 1990s Whitaker branched out into directing (Waiting to Exhale) and producing (A Rage in Harlem) while he kept up his jam-packed acting schedule with memorable appearances in such diverse films as Neil Jordan's The Crying Game, Robert Altman's Ready to Wear and Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. The new century saw Whitaker continue to expand his artistic horizons. For TV, he executive produced the Emmy-winning Door to Door, hosted a Twilight Zone reboot and gave a critically lauded performance as an Internal Affairs cop on the fifth season of The Shield. But the highlight of the decade was his Oscar-winning turn as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. Whitaker, who has a black belt in karate, showed off his expert moves in the 2010 sci-fi flick Repo Men and signed on for a Criminal Minds spin-off (Minds 2.0) for the 2010-11 television season. Whitaker, married to Keisha Nash since 1996, is father to four children.