The Shady Side Of Cuba Gooding Jr.

Cuba Gooding Jr. broke onto the scene as Tre Styles in 1991's Boyz N the Hood. The Academy Award-nominated film gave the young actor a strong platform on which to build his on-screen credits, and that he certainly did. Just six years later, Gooding was accepting his own Oscar for best supporting actor in Jerry Maguire. He was on the top of the world. But the way down from such great heights is quite the distance. 

While many use an Oscar win as a launching pad to superstardom, Gooding unfortunately wasn't so lucky. Since 1997, it seems that the actor's name has been attached to negative press and ill-fated projects more often than not. He's faced divorce, was judged by his peers, criticized by his fans, and even found himself in trouble with the law.

To better understand the movie star's fall from grace, let's dig deeper into the darker moments of his life and career. We bring you the shady side of Cuba Gooding Jr.

Cuba Gooding Jr. faced a critical community

For some, Cuba Gooding Jr.'s fall from Tinseltown grace began the moment he stepped on to that stage to collect his Oscar in the mid-90s. It wasn't that he won. It was how he won. The actor's exuberance and excitement was palpable. He gushed, he yelled over the orchestra, and he back-flipped. Gooding made sure that pretty much everyone in the room knew he loved them ... but was criticized by some of his peers for it.

"It was a Stepin Fetchit performance," director Lee Daniels later explained to The New York Times, referencing the early 20th-century vaudeville performer. "A lot of black people were put off. What happened from that point was he lost respect from the Boyz N the Hood crowd. And as a businessman he went out for the money. As an actor of color you have to be careful, and he chose to go for the money instead of the art."

Spike Lee also had some negative feelings about Gooding's win. In his 2000 film, Bamboozled, he satirized the actor's manic acceptance speech, suggesting that Gooding had employed the racial stereotype of excessive passion to appease the generally white audience. However, Lee was a bit off about the impact this performance would have. In an interview with Newsweek, Lee said of Gooding, "That kind of entertainment will keep you working." For Gooding, that wasn't necessarily true.

He took wrong turn after wrong turn

After his Oscar win, nearly all of the films that Cuba Gooding Jr. appeared in seemed questionable, to say the least. Rather than landing another high-profile role, the actor starred in forgettable flicks, like Rat Race, Snow Dogs, and Chill Factor — films that, according to The New York Times, "were generally eviscerated by the critics."

While it may seem like this career trajectory was about the money, Gooding has claimed it was bigger than that. "For me, it was always about protecting the sanctity of that golden statue," he explained in an interview with The Guardian. "I felt I needed to show people that I can do more, I can do better." But that motive seems questionable when you track the roles he turned down along the way.

In addition to apparently passing on Ali and Amistad, Gooding also backed away from starring roles in Ray, Collateral, Hotel Rwanda, and The Last King of Scotland. Five of those six roles ended up with Oscar nominations, and two of them won (Jamie Foxx and Forest Whitaker). "I had all these big directors offering me roles, and I read their scripts and said, 'I don't think this part is right for me,'" Gooding told The Guardian. "What happens is, if you offend enough big directors, you get taken off their lists."

Have Gooding's roles been unforgettable in every way?

Unfortunately for Cuba Gooding Jr., he wasn't just taking bad roles in worse films after his Oscar win — he also picked some insensitive parts that would linger and age horribly. The first and likely the worst was Boat Trip, a 2003 movie filled with gay-panic jokes, gay stereotypes, and homophobia. 

"When I got to Boat Trip," Gooding said in an interview with The New York Times, "I thought it was time to do something that was going to make me a $20 million player." Unfortunately for the actor, he was wrong. While The Washington Post reported that the film was protested for its backward messages, The Advocate claimed that it was actually "too terrible to protest." 

Regardless, the movie stained Gooding's résumé, but rather than wash it clean with a strong follow-up performance, he took on Radio. The actor played the titular character in that 2003 film, which the AV Club ranked at No. 6 on its "mostly awful portrayals of people with intellectual disabilities" list. While this film tried to be goodhearted, it came off as cringeworthy and clichéd. As for Gooding's character, per the AV Club, "He has huge, messed-up Hollywood teeth and he's excited by the choo-choo train. He does baby voices." Not exactly an image that Gooding should want following him around.

Bad press in 'the wilderness of Hollywood'

While lost in what he once called "the wilderness of Hollywood," Cuba Gooding Jr. struggled for years to land any notable roles. "I was off the studio lists," he told Vulture. "I wasn't getting the roles offered to actors that hadn't done a third of the roles I had done, or had the popularity I had." But that doesn't mean his name was out of the press entirely. 

In 2012, an arrest warrant was issued for Gooding after he allegedly pushed a female bartender against a wall in a New Orleans establishment. A statement issued by police (via The Globe and Mail) detailed how fans were asking the actor to take photos with them. "The bartender said Gooding soon became very aggravated with them," the statement read. When the bartender asked Gooding to calm down, he "allegedly pushed her away with an open hand." After being asked to leave, "Gooding then allegedly pushed her again, and left the bar." 

According to a statement from the bar's spokesperson (via Entertainment Weekly), the bartender eventually decided to drop all charges.

Cuba Gooding Jr.'s strange misadventures

Over the next several years, Cuba Gooding Jr. would go on to have his alleged wild partying ways documented at length in the press. In 2013, for example, Page Six published a story about the afterparty following the Cinema Society's screening of Electrick Children. According to partygoers, Gooding allegedly took on an alter ego named "Dick McWilly," told people that he "just got out of jail," and said he was "drinking ant p*ss." 

In 2016, TMZ released a video of the actor leaving a New York City nightclub after a public viewing of The People v. O.J. Simpson. Gooding appeared to hug the police officers outside, asked them not to shoot anyone, and then tried to race a paparazzo before accidentally running into a passerby. Later that year, he was spotted reportedly dancing erratically at a Miami club. When one of the guests started filming him, Gooding allegedly grabbed the man's cell phone and attempted to swallow it whole. According to the man in question, a rapper by the name of Flash Garments, Gooding had acted "a little abnormal" and "sporadic" all night. "He reached for [my phone] once and missed, then grabbed it when I wasn't looking," Garments told Complex. "I was happy as hell when I got my phone back ... I thought he was going to destroy it. Then he put it in his mouth and I was like, 'What kind of party is this?'"

And the award goes to...

For whatever reason, award shows and Cuba Gooding Jr. have never really meshed all that well. There was his infamous speech at the Oscars, of course, but things got off track early and often when the actor attended the NHL Awards in 2014. Gooding was asked to present a number of awards and mingle with other presenters and winners. And well, he did that and more. 

According to Yahoo! Sports, Gooding's "unbridled enthusiasm morphed into bizarre comedy and then into subtle (but bleep-worthy) homophobia with Mark Messier on stage, as he handed out three different awards." At one point, he asked fellow presenters Messier and Adam Graves to "make a reverse Oreo" with him, adding, "Double Stuffed." 

A couple of years later, Gooding presented the Social Impact Award to his friend, designer John Varvatos, at the Footwear News Achievement Awards. Footwear News reports that the actor once again produced a memorable off-script speech for all the guests. "I think we all owe a debt of gratitude for this amazing meal they put together tonight," Gooding began. "Because nothing says I love you like f**king sugar. F**king boxed lunch. I'm drunk now, motherf**kers, so deal with it. I thought the BET Awards were cheap."

Forgetting Sarah's personal space

Of all the embarrassing things Cuba Gooding Jr. has done on camera, it was his showing at an American Horror Story: Roanoke panel in 2017 that seemed to graduate him into more predatory territory. After his co-star, Sarah Paulson, took the PaleyFest stage and greeted the other panelists, Gooding crept up from behind and lifted up her skirt. Paulson stopped him before it revealed her underwear and laughed off the moment. However, as Digital Spy noted, this wasn't the first time Gooding grabbed at her skirt that evening — and fans weren't pleased. 

About a week later, Gooding suggested to People that the controversial incident had been taken out of context. "I love the lady that is Sarah Paulson," he said. "We have a banter like brother and sister, which is how the spirit of that whole panel was." Gooding then stated that it "was a teachable moment" for his sons. But it wasn't about teaching his sons not lift up a woman's skirt without her consent in front of thousands of people and cameras. Rather, it was teachable because it showed them that "images are going to be out there without your control, so continue standing in your integrity."

Cuba Gooding Jr.'s alleged inappropriate flirting

Among all the alleged partying and drinking that's checkered Cuba Gooding Jr.'s public life, there's another constant theme that's seemed to rear its ugly head. In many of the rumors surrounding the actor, there have been accusations of inappropriate flirting. According to a Page Six story published in 2016, Gooding's methods of flirting at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach were reportedly creeping other guests out. "He kept grabbing beers and kissing my sunburn," one woman claimed. "It was really uncomfortable."

Just a week later, Complex spoke with Flash Garments (the rapper who claimed Gooding tried to eat his phone), who also mentioned that the actor reportedly got handsy with women at the club. "He kissed one girl's hand," he said. "Then he started doing weirder stuff like putting his fingers in his mouth and touching her face."

A couple of days later, another Page Six report hit. This one detailed how Gooding supposedly got too close with some fans looking for selfies, reportedly asking one fan if she liked "having a thumb in [her] a**?" A friend of the woman in question told The New York Post (via Page Six) that "she was disgusted." The source added, "Cuba was very forward with the other girls in our group, grabbing their hips and placing his hands where they felt uncomfortable."

From Gooding to worse

When it comes to the Gooding family, it's not just Cuba who's sometimes done embarrassing things. In fact, the actor's clan has embarrassed him on at least a couple of occasions. While appearing on The Graham Norton Show in 2012, he recalled the time his late father, Cuba Gooding Sr., visited the set of Jerry Maguire. After giving Tom Cruise a hug, Gooding Jr. revealed that his father told his co-star, "I love you, man. Now seriously, are you gay or not?" Gooding Jr. added, "I almost fainted ... I was like, 'Please, lord, let me disappear.'" While Cruise apparently laughed it off and set the record straight, Gooding Jr. banned his father from coming to movie sets in the future. 

That was pretty harmless, but what Gooding Jr.'s brother allegedly did in 2018 was a bit more serious. According to a video released by TMZ, Omar Gooding, himself an actor, got into an argument with another patron at a Las Vegas food court. Omar reportedly yelled at the man with profanity and hurled a homophobic slur at him. Later, he told the gossip rag, "By no means am I a hater or homophobic." Omar then added, "My apologies for the offensive language, but that does not define who I am ... we calmly communicated, worked it out and all was forgiven."

The first case against Cuba Gooding Jr.

In 2019, Cuba Gooding Jr.'s seemingly questionable behavior hit a very sharp tipping point. In June of that year, the actor was accused of groping a female patron at a Manhattan bar. According to a source that spoke with CNN, "[Gooding] allegedly groped her breasts. The victim later told cops she protested at the unwanted touching and they argued about the encounter."

Despite telling TMZ that he was innocent and that video surveillance would clear his name, Gooding later turned himself in to the NYPD for questioning and was charged with "forcible touching, a misdemeanor, and sex abuse in the third degree."

While it's unclear what the surveillance video shows, Gooding pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer remained confident that the actor would be found innocent in the resulting trail. "In my 50 years, almost, of practicing law," his attorney told reporters (via CNN) in October 2019. "I have never seen a case like this one because there is not a scintilla of criminal culpability that can be attributed to Mr. Cuba Gooding after I have extensively, with my staff, reviewed the video of almost two hours which reflects the entire event for which we are here today."

Cuba Gooding Jr.'s second case

While Cuba Gooding Jr. was embroiled in his first sexual misconduct trial, he was hit with another serious allegation in October 2019, when another woman came forward accusing the actor of pinching her buttocks and reportedly saying sexually explicit remarks to her at a New York City nightclub the previous year. According to TMZ, Gooding also pleaded not guilty to these allegations. Meanwhile, the media outlet learned that a third woman came forward with claims against the actor shortly after. Gooding has since pleaded not guilty to this third charge.

According to court documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times at the time, there are at least 12 other women who claimed to have experienced alleged sexual misconduct from Gooding since 2001. In a piece which described some of these claims in more detail, Page Six reported that Gooding had not yet been charged for any of these additional allegations. However, the media outlet noted that prosecutors "[hoped] to still introduce their claims in court to prove a pattern of sexual abuse." Outlining the alleged instances of unwanted touching and groping, prosecutors stated that the "defendant's past behavior shows that he routinely approaches women while at bars or nightclubs with whom he has had limited or no prior interaction, and touches them inappropriately."

At the time of this writing, the sexual misconduct cases against Gooding are still developing.