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Cuba Gooding Jr: Casting is key to Oscars attitude change

Published 28/01/2016

Cuba Gooding Jr, pictured, plays OJ Simpson in The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story
Cuba Gooding Jr, pictured, plays OJ Simpson in The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story

Oscar-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr has said his performances will be seen by awards voters only when they are in high-profile movies by star directors.

Gooding Jr won a best supporting actor Academy Award for his role in Jerry Maguire in 1997 and said change needed to come at the casting stage of movies likely to compete for trophies.

Asked about the anger surrounding the list of all-white acting nominees at this year's Oscars, which are primarily voted for by older white men, he said: "It's going to be an interesting journey; I've always said the process has to start from casting.

"When I hear that a project has been green lit - a Chris Nolan movie or a Spielberg movie - I hope there are characters of colour in it because I know that is the only way my performance will be seen on that scale.

"But at the same time let us not forget these 70-year-old white men we are talking about were rebels in their time so have more progressive thinking than we do, but as a collective you can only choose from the pool from which you can draw from for your nominations so I'm not here to make any excuse for any ills in the academy voting process."

Gooding Jr will next be seen on the small screen as the title character in The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story.

The American football player-turned movie star was found not guilty of murdering his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman in 1995.

Goldman's father later successfully sued Simpson for the wrongful death of his son.

The car chase that led to Simpson's arrest and the subsequent trial were televised live and were media sensations.

Speaking on the red carpet at the world premiere of the series, Gooding Jr said: "I remember watching the Knicks game and then turning it to the chase and putting the game on the radio and listening to it, but watching the chase so we didn't miss anything crazy.

"I played this character to some degree before in Jerry Maguire, I studied these flamboyant marquee athletes and I believe that there is something about their personalities when they are young and show that special skill that they get shielding from social interaction so when their career is over they still have that infantile frame of mind so that motivated a lot of my performance."

John Travolta takes on the role of Simpson's defence lawyer Robert Shapiro and said the wider themes of the case were still fascinating today.

"It's probably the most prominent celebrity crime story that ever happened. It was part of our American history with our favourite sport," he said.

"To widen that perspective you are dealing with the subjects of the legal and judicial systems and the broken aspects of that, you are dealing with racism and classism and fame and what fame does to individuals whether you are a football player or a lawyer or judge."

Travolta said his own memories of the case were coloured by the huge success he was experiencing in his career at the time.

"My memory of it is good but it's a little skewed. My dad followed it every day but I was celebrating Pulp Fiction at the time so I had a whole new career. I felt this American tragedy but I was also feeling my own surroundings so it was a mixed situation," he said

Friends star David Schwimmer plays Robert Kardashian, the father of reality stars Kim, Kourtney and Khloe and another member of Simpson's defence team.

He said the elements in the case created a perfect storm, adding: "There were so many factors that went into this tragic story, it's almost at the level of a Greek myth, of this incredible icon and his fall from grace.

"More than that it was about sex and race and politics and celebrity, unfortunately or not it had everything that we are morbidly fascinated by."

The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story starts on BBC2 in February.

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