"It all comes down to what you appreciate about life"

Cuba Gooding Jr.

Born: January 2, 1968. Place of Birth: Bronx, N.Y.
Spouse/Dating: married 1994 to Sara Kapfer (elementary school teacher)
Children: Sons, Spencer and Mason
Family: Father, Cuba Sr. (lead singer for The Main Ingredient); Mother, Shirley (sang backup for Jackie Wilson as member of the Sweethearts); Brother, Omar (actor); Sister, April (actress).
Education: High School, three years martial arts, acting classes and workshops
Sign: Sun in Capricorn, Moon in Aquarius
Residence: Studio City, California

>1997: American Comedy Award: Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture, Jerry Maguire
>1997: NATO ShoWest Supporting Actor of the Year Award
>1996: Oscar: Best Supporting Actor, Jerry Maguire
>1996: Chicago Film Critics Association Award: Best Supporting Actor, Jerry Maguire
>1996: Screen Actors Guild Award: Best Supporting Actor, Jerry Maguire
>1996: Golden Satellite: Best Supporting Actor (Musical or Comedy), Jerry Maguire
>1996: Broadcast Film Critics Association Award: Best Supporting Actor, Jerry Maguire
>1992: NATO/ShoWest Newcomer of the Year Award

Film Credits Include:
>2000 The Gelfin
>2000 Men of Honor
>1999 A Murder of Crows
>1999 Chill Factor
>1999 Instinct
>1998 What Dreams May Come
>1998 Welcome to Hollywood
>1997 As Good As It Gets
>1997 Do Me a Favor
>1996 Jerry Maguire
>1996 The Audition
>1995 Losing Isaiah
>1995 Outbreak
>1994 Lightning Jack
>1993 Judgment Night
>1992 A Few Good Men
>1992 Gladiator
>1992 Hitz
>1991 Boyz N the Hood
>1989 Sing
>1988 Coming to America

>Pepsi One
>Bugle Boy Jeans
>Burger King


   Once asked why he decided to become an actor, Cuba Gooding Jr. smiled and said, "I've always been a sucker for attention."
   A devoted family man and born-again Christian since the age of 13, Gooding hails from The Bronx in New York. But after his father, Cuba Gooding Sr., lead singer for the group the Main Ingredient, recorded their hit single "Everybody Plays the Fool" in 1972, the band found fame and the Gooding family found the money to move to L.A. Unfortunately, Gooding's parents divorced just two years later in 1974.
   That might have been the end of any father/son relationship, but after 17 years his parents reconciled and remarried in

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Cuba Gooding Jr. (cont.)

1994, and today his entertainer father says, "We’re close. We’re as close as you can be in what we do."
   After winning the Academy Award for his performance in "Jerry Maguire," Gooding handed out his own award to his parents - a second honeymoon to Barbados, the family's hereditary island home.
   His grandfather, Dudley MacDonald Gooding, escaped Barbados in 1936 and made his way to Cuba, where he married a woman who was later murdered. But before she died, grandfather Gooding promised her he would name his first son Cuba. And when Cuba Sr. grew up and married, he kept the family promise alive by naming his first son Cuba Gooding, Jr.
   Cuba Gooding, Jr. loves his work, but after seeing what the entertainment business did to his mom and dad's relationship, he's vowed that his own family will always come before his career. Despite the project he may be working on at any given time, he refuses to go more than two or three weeks without having his wife and kids around.
   He is also a man with a highly identified set of personal values when it comes to the roles he takes on in his work. For example, he turned down a part in the movie "Return to Paradise" with Vince Vaughn, Joaquin Phoenix and Anne Heche in because he didn't agree with the way the character starts out to save a friend, but then abandons his principles, and his friend, at the last minute. Gooding told the Calgary Sun. "I liked the concept of the film, but I just couldn't sympathize with the character's decision."
   Gooding attended four different high schools while growing up in Southern California, and being the sucker for attention that he is, he managed to get elected as class president at three of them. At the age of 16, he got even more attention when he landed his very first entertainment job as a breakdancer for Lionel Richie's closing performance at the 1984 Olympic Games. He found he enjoyed being an entertainer and decided to try acting in high school plays. He gave a standout performance in the school play "Li'l Abner" and after the play a classmate's parent not only congratulated him, but offered to help him get paid for acting. Turns out the parent was a Hollywood agent.
   With an agent came auditions, followed by work in commercials, including a Burger King ad, TV and movie bit parts and a small role on episode of "Hill Street Blues" that was almost a disaster because Gooding couldn't find his marks (the tape on the floor that tells an actor where to stand and sometimes what to do). The experience was a wake up call and he began looking around for acting classes. The subsequent classes and workshops helped him with his auditions and kept him working. The parts were small and mostly forgetable, but he was making progress.
   His first feature movie role was in Eddie Murphy's 1988 film "Coming to America," where he played the boy getting a haircut. In 1990, Gooding auditioned for John Singleton's "Boyz N the Hood." Singleton was so impressed by Gooding's audition that even the shirt Gooding wore that day ended up in the film and many of the movies promotion stills. Singleton cast him as Tre Styles, a young black man trying to escape the South Central Los Angeles ghetto. The movie was a hit and Gooding's performance was a critical success.
   The next few years brought steady work, but nothing that seriously upped Gooding's market value. "A Few Good Men" was a success, but movies like "Hitz," "Gladiator" and "Judgment Night" were less than memorable. The Australian actor Paul Hogan saw Gooding on the Dennis Miller Show one night which led to a role in the movie "Lightning Jack," and his performance in "Outbreak" was well received, but in general, Gooding was just getting by on his acting income. It was during these steady but less than famous times that he married his highschool sweetheart and teacher's aide, Sara Kapfer.
   Gooding kept working, kept hoping for that one role that would make him a truly bankable star. It happened for Gooding the day director Cameron Crowe

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Cuba Gooding Jr. (cont.)

called and asked him to audition for the role of Rod Tidwell in a project Crowe was working on called "Jerry Maguire." But the audition process was brutal. Others were trying out for the same part and many people involved with the project openly advised Crowe against hiring Gooding. At just 5'11", they felt Gooding was just too diminutive to be believable as a football player. (These people obviously never saw little men like NY Jets wide receiver Wayne Chrebet play the game.) But Gooding was not to be denied. He desperately wanted the role, knowing in his heart that he could do it better than anyone. At his audition and every call back he fought for the part. He was brassy, passionate and did anything he was asked, even dropping his pants. But it was a phone conversation that finally convinced Crowe his advisors were wrong and Gooding was, indeed, the right man for the job. "There aren't that many big parts for a black actor in Hollywood," he told the director. "This is my shot." It was exactly that kind of committment Crowe had been searching for and he immediately signed Gooding for the part.
   Gooding's performance was brilliant. He was hailed by the critics, nominated for a Golden Globe and won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. He is only the sixth black person in history to win an Academy Award.
   And who can forget that Oscar night? When his name was announced, Gooding lept to his feet, bear-hugged co-star Tom Cruise within an inch of his life and was so completely excited that he went well beyond his allotted time with his heartfelt thanks and "I love you! I love you! I love you!" to literally everyone .
   Oscar host Billy Crystal loved it. He joked to the audience later, "If there is anyone who's not been thanked by Cuba, please give me your name. He's waiting backstage."
   These days, Gooding displays his Oscar on top of a wine cabinet in his home.
   Since "Jerry Maquire," Gooding has had some luxury in being more selective about his projects, working with the likes of Oscar winners Robin Williams, Helen Hunt and Jack Nicholson. He is often asked how he picks the projects he works on.
   "There's not really a theme to the roles that I pick," he explains. "It's just an opportunity to work with great people."
   But sometimes working with great actors can be intimidating. With the legendary Jack Nicholson in the film "As Good As It Gets" he told an Express reporter , "I was terrified the day I had to slam Jack Nicholson into a wall. I asked him if there was a particular way he wanted me to grab him and to cushion the blow. He told me just to do it and not worry about him. He told me it was my scene, not his."
   As a note to his fans, Gooding explains the reason his head was also shaved in "As Good As It Gets" was because that film started production while he was still reshooting scenes for "Jerry Maguire."
   Anyone who heard his off-key shower-singing in "Jerry Maquire" may not believe it, but one of Gooding's new projects is the release of his own album in the near future. His father had always complained that none of his children could carry a tune, but now he says proudly, "He'll be the second Gooding ever to have a recording contract."
   For all his success, Gooding remains humble, believing money and fame aren’t what is really important. "It all comes down to what you appreciate about life. I was raised Baptist. My mom instilled in me when I was young that there is a heaven and a hell – real places, and I believe that."
   To do his latest movie release, "Men of Honor" Gooding took a pay cut to star as master diver Carl Brashear but says he doesn't regret it. At the film's premiere party he said, "When I first read the script, I was embarrassed--he had done so much. I'm more proud of this than anything I've ever done."
   AP movie writer David Germain agrees, suggesting that both Gooding and Robert DeNiro should be serious contenders for this year's Best Actor Oscar for "Men of Honor."
   Good luck, Cuba! You've got our vote!