His Big Break
Cuba’s first on-screen appearance came in the form of an episode of Hill Street Blues, an experience that inspired him to further his acting skills by taking acting lessons. In 1988, Cuba made his first feature feature-film appearance in Coming to America, a movie in which he played a very small role. His first break came in 1990 when he played Tre Styles in award winning movie Boyz ‘N the Hood. For his role in this movie, Cuba received a great deal of acclaim, and a reputation that earned him more important roles soon after. Despite his best efforts, Cuba continued to work in relative obscurity, although he did put in a great performance in ‘A Few Good Men’ in 1992.
In 1997, Cuba played the role of a loyal football player in the movie ‘Jerry Maguire’, a role for which he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Funny enough, when Cuba won the award, he gave one of the most memorable acceptance speeches in the history of the awards. This big break did wonders for his career, and after just one year, he got to play along Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt in yet another Oscar winning movie, As Good As It Gets. Cuba did get his share of bad luck unfortunately, as even though his 1998 movie ‘What Dreams May Come’ in which he co-starred Robin Williams had some success, the mixed reviews that the movie got made it a box office disappointed. With it, Cuba’s great run of form was looking to come to an end
It all started with Cuba’s role in ‘Instinct’, a movie in which he plays alongside Anthony Hopkins. This movie was supposed to build on the vibe from ‘Silence of the Lambs’, especially due to the fact that Hopkins’ role as a deranged anthropologist looked very similar to his role as Hannibal Lecter. Instead, the movie was a big disappointment at the box office, and it received poor reviews from critics and viewers alike. After this flop, Cuba took on another dubious project, the action-comedy Chill Factor. In this movie Cuba plays as an ice cream delivery man that is supposed to save the world, but this action-comedy movie isn’t action-packed, nor is it funny. It was soon afterwards, with his appearance in ‘A Murder of Crows’, that Cuba pledged himself as a straight-to-video actor.
Cuba did manage to redeem himself in 2000 when he co-starred Robert DeNiro in the military drama, Men of Honor. In this movie, Cuba plays as a Navy diver that has to deal with a racist Master Chief, with whom he eventually creates a strong bond. Men of Honor was a pretty big success at the time, despite all the mix reviews it received. Trying to build on that success, he took on another military-themed project in 2001, Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor. This movie was supposed to show the story of an impossible romance during the well-known historical event, but it failed miserably. Following this flop, Cuba embarked into a series of poor projects such as Boat Trip, Radio, and Fighting Temptations, all B rated movies
It seems that movies like ‘Lies & Illusions’ and ‘Linewatch’ are Cuba’s preferred setting recently, which is sad for an actor of his caliber. In times like these, Cuba would do well to remember what happened to Wesley Snipes, a similar profile actor who followed the same career path. Still, despite his imperfections, Cuba seems to get a lot of work, which means that he isn’t out of the game entirely, even if his movies go straight to video lately.
Nowadays Cuba rarely appears into memorable films, although he did play an important role in Lee Daniels’ The Butler in 2013. It seems that all of Cuba’s appearances on screen in recent years, have been in below average movies and TV shows. It is very hard to put a finger on what exactly made this once great actor take the path that he did, although some would argue that he isn’t done yet. After twenty years of ups and downs, it is very likely that Cuba will get a yet another chance to prove himself to his critics, although we might have to wait a while until that happens.
Cuba Gooding Jr. Facts:
- Cuba break danced at the closing ceremony of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles
- He is married to his high school sweetheart Sara
- His parents used to manage the Apollo Theater in New York
- He was class president at 3 of the 4 high schools he attended
- Roger Moore once suggested that Cuba should replace Pierce Brosnan as James Bond
- He used to be a backup dancer for Paula Abdul
- Cuba is a huge fan of hockey, and even has a rink in his back yard
- He turned down the role of ‘Cinque’ in Amistad(1997)