January 8, 1997

Just Call Him ‘Australia Gooding’

Kathleen Sampey Associated Press
 

With his latest film, Cuba Gooding Jr. makes a 180-degree turn from the role that first got him noticed.

In 1991’s “Boyz N the Hood” he won critical acclaim for his brooding portrayal of Tre Stiles. Now, in “Jerry Maguire,” he plays opposite Tom Cruise and nearly steals the show. Gooding breathes into the character of football player Rod Tidwell an bravado and integrity.

Gooding, born Sept. 2, 1968, in New York City, is the son of Cuba Gooding Sr., who sang lead on the 1972 hit, “Everybody Plays the Fool.”

1. How did you get the name Cuba?

Gooding: My grandfather was a sea merchant. He was from Cuba. When he moved to the States, he became a taxicab driver in Manhattan. His nickname was Cuba. He named my father Cuba. So I’m unofficially the III.

2. If you could be named after another country which one would it be?

Gooding: Australia. I’ve been there and it’s beautiful.

3. What do you think of when you hear the song “Everybody Plays the Fool?”

Gooding: Living in Granada Hills, Calif. That was when the family was still together. Great Christmases.

4. Was it your idea to shave your head for the part of Rod Tidwell in “Jerry Maguire?”

Gooding: Yes. I originally did it for an audition for ‘The Fan’ which I didn’t get. Lost out to John Leguizamo. So I said, ‘I see this character (Tidwell) bald’ - ‘cause I was bald already.

5. Did you find that when you became famous people around you treated you differently?

Gooding: Somebody said to me fame doesn’t just change you, it changes the people around you. I so believe that. It does. Friends that I had looked at me in a cautious way as if to say, ‘Is he changing?’ Those types went their way. My true friends went our way.

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