Cuba Gooding Jr has enjoyed a very interesting and diverse acting career, to say the least. With the West End revival of Chicago premiering tonight, we are casting the spotlight on this polarising actor and comedian. Can this one-time Academy Award-winning star make a successful West End stage debut in a role that seems to have been casted by fate more than anything else?
Gooding was born in the Bronx during the civil rights movement and is of Barbadian descent. He and his family moved to Los Angeles in 1972 when his father, Cuba Gooding Sr, and his soul group, The Main Ingredient, sparked a hit new single.
The move to Hollywood helped Gooding Jr. land several minor television roles as a young guest star, starting with Better Days and Hill Street Blues. His first big-screen credit was in a small role as a boy getting a haircut at the barbershop in the 1988 slapstick comedy, Coming to America, which starred Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall. His first major role in film, however, was Tre Styles in 1991's Boyz n the Hood, which earned him a nomination for a Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Following his early success, Gooding starred in many more major motion pictures in the 90s, including A Few Good Men (1992), but his career hit its peak in 1996 when he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Rod Tidwell in Jerry Maguire. His character made a significant contribution to American pop culture (and to the American lexicon) with his famous catchphrase, "Show me the money!"
Gooding landed a few more significant roles, such as Albert Lewis in What Dreams May Come (1998) in which he starred alongside the late Robin Williams, Senior Chief Carl Brashear in Men of Honor (2000), and Petty Officer Doris Miller in Pearl Harbor (2001). He then notably starred in the family comedy film, Snow Dogs (2002), which did not fare well with critics but was a favourite amongst audiences.
Following this box office smash, Gooding began taking on smaller projects, the likes of which included such gems as The Land Before Time XIII: The Wisdom of Friends (2007), Hero Wanted (2008), and Life of a King (2013). His absence in major motion pictures was surprising to many and was likely a result of being blacklisted in Hollywood for many years after infamously turning down a number of huge roles with big-time filmmakers, including a role in Steven Spielberg’s successful 1997 film, Amistad. One of Gooding’s reasons for refusing such major roles was that he wanted to escape the stigma of being a parody that was associated with his famous Jerry Maguire tagline.
In the end, Gooding’s work in smaller roles helped him to obtain hands-on experience in filmmaking and proved invaluable in acquiring the know-how on the other side of the lens. He actively took part in meetings with writers and even directed and edited some of his own work.
After nearly a decade of lesser-known works, Gooding Jr stunned television audiences in 2016 with a very successful comeback when he starred in the miniseries, American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson. His portrayal of O.J. garnered a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie and his subsequent casting in this year’s West End revival of Chicago only seems like fate, as it is widely believed that the O.J. Simpson trial in the early 90s heavily influenced the success of the 1996 Broadway revival of Chicago thanks to an increase in popularity of the crime genre.
What’s more, Gooding Jr considers his role as Billy Flynn in Chicago to be a tribute to his late father and notable soul musician, Gooding Sr. “The musical bit of my upbringing kind of died with him,” the actor admitted. This no-doubt talented actor sees Chicago as a way for his father to be right there with him on stage.
Chicago is premiering at the Phoenix Theatre tonight for Cuba Gooding Jr’s West End feature stage debut. Gooding is set to play Billy Flynn in this toe-tapping musical for a limited time only until 30 June 2018. Chicago is set to run until 6 October 2018. Hurry and book your tickets now while stocks last!
“Show me the tickets!” For tickets to see Cuba Gooding Jr in the West End revival of Chicago, click here.
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