About Features Reviews Community Screenings Archives Studios Home
September 2006
THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND: An Interview with Forest Whitaker

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND: An Interview with Forest Whitaker
By Wilson Morales

September 25, 2006


What would you say is the difference between Amin’s power and Prime Minister Milton Obete, whom Amin overthrew to take over Uganda? As you mentioned, Amin was like a showman and got more attention than Obete, but both had the same tyranny in a way.

FW: Obete in the beginning was not really as popular with the people because he was an intellectual, more intellectual and removed from the people; and at that time, it was Kenyatta and Ray-Ray and the countries that were right neat there and Kenya and they were like starting this socialist block, and that’s really why Idi Amin came to power; because they wanted to get Obete out so they wouldn’t have like a socialist communist set up in the middle of Africa. So Obete went up there and when he came back, he felt like he had enemies everywhere and then he started killing probably more people than Amin did actually when he returned back to power, maybe 500,000 people.

Can you talk about being in Uganda and seeing things? How was actually shooting there as far as the film set compared to other experiences? Can you talk about the poverty there and have you gone back to do anything for the country after shooting there?

FW: Shooting the film there, we had a large Uganda crew and most of them had never done a film before. Some guys out of Rwanda had come down and they had dome some films before, but the crew was learning as they were going along, trying to understand. I think that posed some difficulty for the production, but the learned quickly and I don’t think the film could have been the same without them because they were able to say, “That’s not really real. That’s not the way it would be.” We weren’t even in tents. We were like in tarps, those plastic blue things that you tie up in dirt floors, so those were the difficulties of it. Yes, the Uganda economy is not so great right now. Certainly they have a middle class now, which is great. There is a large store of poor people, but they have an amazing resilience and heart and a kind of openness that I find quite unusual in many places that I’ve been to. Uganda for me rest inside the people. I’m not saying that poor is relative because certainly if you don’t have toilets, running water, certain things that can cause illness and stuff, I don’t find that to be relative, but certainly happiness is relative and I did find a lot of people, despite the poverty and conditions, seemed to be happy than others.

The films that you direct, for the most part, are radically different from most of the parts that you play and most of the movies that you are in, and they are also from a female perspective. What makes you keep going after films like that?

FW: The first move I did, “Strapped”, was kind of an urban thriller and with “Waiting to Exhale”, I thought I could explore relationships and I was interested in pieces about healing and about the connection about the human spirit, connecting people together, and how people overcome bad relationships and feel good about themselves. I think that’s an overall theme inside of all my movies. It’s the same theme that happened in “Hope Floats”, where a woman goes back to Texas to feel good again and find herself; maybe not in “The First Daughter” as much as the person is trying to find their way. That’s a little different because I was working on something else and they talked to me about doing that and I thought I could tell a Sid Arthur story about a princess going off into the world, and it was something my daughter could watch. I don’t know if my next movie is going to be the same subject matter, certain nothing is in development right now, but I’m not saying that I won’t. As an actor, I think I’m still doing the same thing. I’m doing it to try to understand people connecting people. I’m to let my work be a healing experience for myself and as a result hopefully have some sort of effect on others.

How do you feel about your name being talked about for an Oscar as the race begins?

FW: It’s cool if people look at my work and say that’s it worthy of them to talk about that. I think it’s great if it makes people go to the movies. I really want people to see this movie. I think it’s negative if I start to think what’s going to happen or living my life around something like that. That’s a problem. That would be a problem. I’ve done a lot of movies that people have talked about my character in those movies. When I was on ‘The Shield” earlier, all the press was saying, ‘Of course, he’s going to win an Emmy.” I wasn’t even nominated. I take it with a grain of salt. I’m just trying to enjoy the moment.

After doing this film, did you follow up on Amin’s life once he was in exile?

FW: Only to the effect that he went to Jeddah and he was staying there and became more religious, a more practicing Muslin while he was there; and that he dies three years ago. That was all I knew. I lived a long life.

What role will you be playing on “ER”?

FW: It’s an interesting character that I really like. I play a guy who’s a carpenter-artist who goes into the hospital with pneumonia and they can’t find a vain and I end up having a stroke. I have a stroke and I’m paralyzed from one side of my body, my eye sight is going and I bring charges against the hospital. Then I lose my wife. My wife and my children leave me. I can’t do my job and ultimately I’m trying to get this doctor to admit that he did something wrong.

Is this all happening in one episode?

FW: I’m going to be there for five episodes. The whole is kind of intense.

Which doctor on the show messing up the operation?

FW: Dr. Luka Kovac. Most of my scenes are with him and he’s really good. I think he’s a real talented actor.

Who are you playing in “Vantage Point”?

FW: I play a tourist who has just broken up with his wife and he’s like in Spain trying to find himself. He doesn’t know what to do. He’s kind of a boring guy and then all of a sudden I tape this event, this assassination attempts, so I have to get the tape where everyone can see it and look at it and all of a sudden I feel alive, like I have a purpose. I’m the normal and the rest of them are CIA, and presidents and I’m just a guy.

What’s the secret to a happy marriage?

FW: Love, getting people to listen to each other, care, accepting mistakes, accepting loss, and trying to move together toward a common goal. I don’t really know. That’s kind of a tough one.

How do your children make your relationship stronger?

FW: They add so much to your life. There’s beauty. You’re experiencing things with them, that means things are always fresh and new in your life cause you’re dealing whatever is fresh and new with them. You start to work together and then hopefully try to bring them up in a good way and that creates a bond. You celebrate their accomplishments and try to figure out how to get them through their disappointments and that creates a bond, and I don’t know. There are so many things.

How old are your kids?

FW: The youngest is 8, and the oldest is 16, and there’s another that’s 14. I was having a discussion regarding the 14 year old because they haven’t really seen my movies and my wife said she should see my movies and I’m like, “She’s 14” and we would discuss it later with her as to what’s occurring in the movie because it’s pretty starting as to what happens to his wife Kay.

In referring to “The Shield”, do you think cops like Vic Mackey are necessary in the world?

FW: I don’t. I don’t if I’m talking like from Cavanaugh’s point of view. I think it’s a personal point of view. I don’t think so. I think that when you are given a job to protect and to help the public, that you are not to abuse it. If you look at “The Shield” this last season, you watch a man who clearly killed a police officer himself and you see him watch a person die, bleeding to death, and not even wanting to call an ambulance to help save the person. When is that necessary? From my point of view, I don’t find it to be redeemable. I think what’s redeemable about the character is people really care about Michael Chiklis and they really like him and they want to see their flaws in him and explore the fact that the have flaws, but everything is not redeemable.

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND opens on September 28, 2006

Page 1 | Page 2



Terms of Use | Privacy Policy