A very happy 51st birthday goes out to Cuba Gooding, Jr. today! This very talented actor has seen his star rise up again recently with a baity turn as O.J. Simpson in “The People vs. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story.” Of course, he was an Academy Award winner in Best Supporting Actor about 20 years ago for “Jerry Maguire“, shooting him into the stratosphere. Playing high maintenance football player Rod Tidwell, he bounced perfectly off of Tom Cruise. Of course, his “show me the money” scene is a classic, but it’s all phenomenal. Few actors display the sort of charisma and charm that he effortlessly puts out. To watch Gooding, Jr. in a movie is to like him.
One thing always follows around Gooding, Jr. is that he’s often thought of as an Oscar-winner that didn’t live up to the win afterward. Previous to his win, he was best known for small roles in things like “Boyz n the Hood?” and “A Few Good Men.” Once he had the statue, after his fiery speech, he never came close to contention again. “Men of Honor” and “Radio” were subsequent attempts at prestige, though they fell well short of the mark. If he ends up one and done with the Academy, he’ll go down as a deserving winner, though one who may have deprived William H. Macy (for “Fargo“) or Edward Norton (for “Primal Fear“) of their own prizes.
Today marks a perfect day to revisit some of his work, as we think of his brush with Oscar. Here’s a challenge: