1996 was Cuba Gooding Jr.’s year. He starred in the critically-acclaimed film Jerry Maguire and won an Oscar for it. His best supporting actor acceptance speech was so bombastically enthusiastic it catapulted him into a new echelon of fame and fortune. Unfortunately, the good times were short lived, and since then Gooding has suffered through weak acting roles and now legal troubles. A warrant has been issued for his arrest over the alleged assault of a female bartender in New Orleans. This once very promising actor is now struggling to maintain a decent reputation in the public eye. What happened?
After Gooding’s 1996 Academy Award win, he became one of the fastest rising black actors in Hollywood. He worked the talk show circuit endlessly, granting interviews, appearing in commercials, and no doubt fielding numerous meetings and lunches from the Hollywood establishment, which was just dying to work with him.
Undoubtedly someone caught his ear with the golden aphorism “strike while the iron is hot.” What someone didn’t tell Gooding was to strike wisely, as once the iron cools, what’s done is done. Here is where Gooding perhaps didn’t take the wisest council, and fashioned the hot iron of his career into a deformed, family film laughingstock, a modern-day jester shucking across the big screen and ruining his reputation with audiences and the film industry. Where once he was the promising young actor, ten years of box office flops and straight-to-DVD throwaway films have made Gooding somewhat of a Hollywood leper.
Before Maguire, Gooding largely worked in serious dramas, with supporting roles in hit films like A Few Good Men and Outbreak – not to mention his breakout role in Boyz n the Hood. These strong, career-building roles helped him land his award-winning star turn in Jerry Maguire. However after his win and comically passionate acceptance speech, Gooding’s career choices took a turn for the worse.
Perhaps he gained an appetite for silly (and unsuccessful) comedy, or he just decided to cash any check offered him, as his next roles featured Gooding in painfu,l eye-roll-inducing films like Boat Trip, The Fighting Temptations, Daddy Day Camp, Snow Dogs and Norbit. All of which flopped at the box office (except for Norbit, which, to most people’s chagrin, actually performed well).
Once it dawned on Gooding that his big screen choices were flopping horribly, it appeared he was retiring from the theater-release business as a whole, instead opting to perform in gritty straight-to-DVD fare like Hardwired and The Devil’s Tomb.
But it’s not over for Gooding — his career seems poised for a turn-around. Last year he appeared in George Lucas’ modest hit Red Tails, his first big-screen on-camera role since 2007. Gooding is currently in New Orleans to film The Butler, a Lee Daniels film with a star-studded cast about a black White House butler that served eight presidents over the course of 30 years. It’s unclear exactly what role Gooding will be playing, but the fact that there’s no goofy premise or straight-to-DVD distribution schedule bodes well for the actor’s future.
Which makes this current accusation all the more disappointing. Gooding is accused of getting into a confrontation with a bartender after other bar patrons tried to take pictures of him. An unfortunate “angry celeb forsakes the fans who made him” story, though it’s also very possible that the supposed fans were being rude and Gooding got fed up with them.
As of press time, Gooding had yet to release a statement regarding the incident, so any accusations will be only subject to speculation. Here’s hoping there’s not much truth to these charges and the situation is resolved quickly. Cuba Gooding Jr. is a talented actor on the brink of a career comeback, and another blot on his reputation could spell a return to career purgatory.
Follow Kia Miakka Natisse on Twitter at @miakka_natisse