Cuba Gooding Jr. On Why He Took ‘Direct To Video Trash’

It’s safe to say that Cuba Gooding Jr. is having a moment. After starring in flops or straight to video releases, Cuba Gooding Jr. showed the world that there’s a reason why he won the Academy Award for his performance in Jerry Maguire — he can actually act.

This year saw Cuba Gooding Jr. up front and center in his most riveting and certainly most dramatic portrayals. The star took the role of O.J. Simpson in The People v O.J. Simpson. It was a bold move for Gooding Jr. for several reasons and one that proved to be an endurance test.

In an earlier interview, Cuba Gooding Jr. talked about his performance. Back in February, the actor told Variety of the hard scenes.

“The days in the courtroom were emotionally draining, The stuff in the jail cell. The guilt and frustration I felt at celebrating the not guilty verdict. I’m not saying I think he’s innocent or guilty. I’m just saying I never grieved for the loss of those families. You’ve gotta feel that. If I’m going to be that involved and not take into consideration those lives were lost — I feel guilt from that.”

Many would get the person they’re portraying’s perspective, especially if they’re still alive, but Gooding Jr. told Variety that he wanted to keep a distance as he didn’t want his interaction to affect his performance in the long run.

“I wasn’t portraying an old broken man in jail who believes he’s innocent. I played him as an egotistical flamboyant movie star slash marquee athlete. Someone said, ‘If he reached out to you today would you go visit him?’ And I said I would. Because now it’s not going to influence my performance. But I don’t know what he’d want to say to me. And I have nothing to say to him.”

As for those straight to DVD movies Cuba did? Surprisingly, it was the actor’s choice to pass on plum roles in favor for lesser material. During the Actor’s Roundtable, Gooding Jr. explained to his colleagues (which included Forest Whitaker, Rami Malek, Bobby Cannavale, and Paul Giamatti) that he was leery about taking on another role in a big movie.

“When I won the Oscar, I fell into that mind-set that this is a precious role. People everywhere were shouting, ‘Show me the money!’ I just didn’t want anything that could parody the fact that I was like a tagline in a movie. So when Steven Spielberg offered me Amistad, I said no; when Hotel Rwanda came along, I said no. I was saying no to all of these things because I had in my mind the role I wanted to play.”

As for what kind of roles he wanted to play, Gooding Jr laughed, “I had no f—-n’ idea. So I passed on all these great directors and wound up offending a bunch of them, and what happened was I went off the list of, ‘Greenlight if you have this actor in the role.’ I went into the wasteland. But I think it was God’s will that I took eight to 10 years to go and do direct-to-video trash.”

For Gooding Jr., he spent those 10 years learning about the filmmaking process from a more intimate level, meeting with writers, and then later on directing and editing his own work. Of the time, he said what he learned in the end was invaluable but, “unfortunately people had to sit through those movies.”

[Photo by FX]