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Why Hollywood Won't Cast Cuba Gooding Jr. Anymore

Between the late 1990s and early 2000s, Cuba Gooding Jr. was one of the biggest names in Hollywood. The son of singers Shirley Sullivan and Cuba Gooding Sr., Gooding was born to be an entertainer. He began as a breakdancer before pivoting to acting in the early 1980s. He made a splash with various television appearances on hit shows like "Hill Street Blues" and "MacGyver" before landing his first major film role playing Tre Styles in John Singleton's debut feature and pioneering classic "Boyz n the Hood." 

His career trajectory only went up after that, appearing in several other critically acclaimed features such as the Rob Reiner adaptation of Aaron Sorkin's "A Few Good Men" and the pandemic thriller film "Outbreak." But the defining role of his career came when he played Rod Tidwell in Cameron Crowe's "Jerry Maguire." The film was a box office success, and Gooding's performance was lauded by critics, landing him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His character's "Show me the money!" catchphrase became a pop-culture staple, and his overzealous Oscar acceptance speech was a meme before memes were memes. It even helped get him memorialized on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2002. 

But despite multiple early triumphs, an array of personal and professional setbacks have caused the once-revered actor to step out of the spotlight. Nowadays, Gooding makes headlines not for any recent films he's made, but rather for the string of controversies he's been surrounded by.

Here's why Hollywood won't cast Cuba Gooding Jr. anymore.

Misconduct allegations

To get the elephant out of the room: The most obvious reason Cuba Gooding Jr. isn't being sought out for roles anymore is that numerous women have accused him of sexual misconduct. 

It started in June of 2019, when USA Today reported that Gooding was being investigated for allegedly groping a woman while drunk at a bar in New York City. Gooding was later arrested after turning himself in to the NYPD, as USA Today later confirmed. Gooding was eventually released pending a further trial.

In October of that same year, The New York Times reported that Gooding was indicted on a separate sexual abuse charge. Though details about the new allegations weren't released, they were serious enough that they delayed the trial for the June incident. The same New York Times report also noted that Gooding denied all allegations against him, and that his lawyers had tried unsuccessfully to get the original charges dismissed.

Some believe the trouble began earlier than 2019. Page Six reported that ever since Gooding's divorce from his high school sweetheart, Sara Kapfer, in 2014, the actor has spent his free time clubbing, partying, and drinking heavily, while displaying some of the questionable behavior detailed in the assault allegations.

Those first two allegations were only the beginning.

Growing numbers

Not long after the second woman made charges against Gooding, Page Six reported that three more women had come forward to accuse the actor of misconduct. The report stated that these new allegations dated back as far as 2008, and included instances of Gooding groping two of the women in similar ways on separate occasions. 

By the end of 2019, NBC News reported that the number of women accusing Gooding of misconduct had grown to 22, which included an additional seven women coming forward with detailed stories that involved instances of forced kissing and Gooding giving graphic depictions of sexual acts, among other inappropriate behaviors.

The coming year proved to be even worse for Gooding, as CNN reported that the number of accusers had grown to a staggering 30 women by August 2020. Gooding also officially got charged with three counts of forcible touching and three counts of sexual abuse. Gooding still denies all wrongdoing. As of the time of the CNN report, his defense was working to undermine the credibility of the accusers by using their past statements against them and to question the procedural propriety of the police investigation. 

Lawsuits

In addition to the multiple criminal accusations, two women have filed civil suits against Gooding. In August 2020, The New York Times reported that a lawsuit was filed against Gooding by a woman accusing the actor of raping her twice in 2013. The lawsuit stated that the woman, referred to as Jane Doe, met Gooding at a Greenwich Village restaurant and the actor invited her to have drinks with him at a hotel in SoHo. Gooding eventually invited her to his hotel room; when the woman tried to leave, Gooding attacked her and raped her.

This follows a different lawsuit that was filed earlier in 2019 by one of the many women who accused Gooding of groping. According to Page Six, bartender Natasha Ashworth was working at a nightclub when Gooding approached her. After denying his advances, Gooding then proceeded to grope her butt several times. Unlike the 2020 suit, the same Page Six report noted that the events that transpired within the 2019 lawsuit happened a year prior.

In June 2021, Complex reported that Ashworth won her lawsuit in a default judgment—basically meaning that Gooding simply failed to respond to the lawsuit at all. 

Critical flops

But even before all the sexual misconduct allegations against him were revealed, Cuba Gooding Jr.'s career wasn't what it used to be. After the success of "Jerry Maguire," Gooding suffered the same career slump that has plagued many actors and actresses after they win the golden statuette. Despite starring in films like the well-received "As Good As It Gets" and the box office hit "Pearl Harbor," Gooding's post-Oscar resume is plagued by a series of terrible comedies that have landed him several Golden Raspberry Award nominations.

Some of his more questionable career decisions included the R-rated romantic comedy "Boat Trip," poorly reviewed and little-seen Disney comedies "Snow Dogs" and "Home on the Range," the much-reviled family sequel "Daddy Day Camp," and the Eddie Murphy misfire "Norbit."

Even with films like the Ridley Scott crime drama "American Gangster" in between these mistakes, it was clear that the days of critically acclaimed films like "Jerry Maguire" were long past Gooding. Gooding has even acknowledged in an interview with Page Six that he made several bad decisions for his career, including revealing that he turned down roles in several acclaimed films like "Amistad," "Ray," "The Last King of Scotland," and "Hotel Rwanda," all of which went on to be nominated for several Academy Awards. 

When asked why he made so many poor career choices, Gooding denied that he was motivated by money: "For me, it was always about protecting the sanctity of that golden statue ... Because I felt I needed to show people that I can do more, I can do better." We're not sure how appearing in a movie that one critic described as "racially insensitive, politically incorrect[,] and beyond crude" protects the sanctity of, well, anything, but Gooding didn't elaborate. 

Box office duds

Not only were many of the previously mentioned films critical flops, but a good number of them were massive box office misfires as well. Every actor has their fair share of flops, but Gooding's post-Oscar resume is filled with them. As Gooding himself has said, "I was in the wilderness of Hollywood for almost 10 years. I was off the studio lists. 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." 

While films like "Norbit" and "Snow Dogs" performed decently during their theatrical runs, the same can't be said for many of the others. "Boat Trip" only made $15 million against a $20 million budget, and "Home on the Range" was one of the biggest financial disasters ever for Disney. Though not a box office failure, the $18 million haul of "Daddy Day Camp" isn't anything to write home about, and is a far cry from the $160 million haul that the original Eddie Murphy-starring "Daddy Day Care" made during its original run in 2003.

Other box office disappointments featuring Gooding include the musical comedy "The Fighting Temptations" ($32 million against a $30 million budget), the buddy comedy "Chill Factor" ($11 million against a $34 million budget), and the psychological thriller "Instinct" ($34 million against an $80 million budget). These films essentially turned Gooding's name into box office poison. 

Direct-to-DVD, television films, and cameos

After several critical and commercial failures, Gooding faded from the limelight, but still managed to get work in the form of several direct-to-DVD films. In fact, between the years of 2006 and 2013, Gooding appeared in almost nothing but direct-to-DVD pictures. Like many movies that skip the theater, these films mostly consisted of forgettable action flicks and lackluster family offerings, from hardboiled crime films like "Wrong Turn at Tahoe," which also starred a far-fallen Harvey Keitel, to animated numbers like 2007's "The Land Before Time XIII: The Wisdom of Friends." (Believe it or not, this was not the last entry in the long-running "The Land Before Time" series). 

After this series of debacles, Gooding made the jump back to feature films like the Tuskegee Airmen war film "Red Tails" and the Robert Rodriguez-directed action flick "Machete Kills," as well as supporting roles in Oscar-nominated pictures such as Ava DuVernay's "Selma" in 2014 and Lee Daniels' star-studded period piece "The Butler" (2013). It wasn't exactly a comeback, but it seemed like a promising reprieve from all the dreck.  

Gooding also made the jump back to television, making guest appearances in shows like the Fox hip-hop drama "Empire" and the short-lived ABC drama "Forever," as well as TV movies like "Gifted Hands," where he played neurosurgeon and presidential candidate Ben Carson. While the latter film landed Gooding a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries/TV Movie, none of these film or television roles lit the entertainment world on fire the same way Gooding's past projects did.

Directing debut

Many actors retreat from the spotlight in order to focus on working behind the camera, something that Gooding tried his hand at in 2018. Gooding's directorial debut came in the form of "Bayou Caviar," an action film that he also co-wrote. In this film, Gooding starred as Rodney Jones, a retired boxer who gets mixed up with Russian mobsters and is tasked with gathering information for a blackmail scheme against a real estate mogul. The film also starred Famke Janssen as a photographer who aids Jones on his quest and the legendary Richard Dreyfuss as the main mobster.

Despite a strong supporting cast, the film was not well received by critics. With only five reviews, "Bayou Caviar" holds a dismal 36 Metascore on Metacritic and a 20% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as an equally abysmal audience score from the latter site. So far, this is the only film that Gooding has directed. Considering that this film came out a year before the misconduct allegations came out, it's not surprising that he hasn't stepped back into the director's chair.

American crime story

There was a time when Hollywood's prodigal son seemed to return thanks to Ryan Murphy. The megaproducer cast Gooding in the first season of "American Crime Story," which covered the infamous O.J. Simpson murder trial and accompanying media circus. 

Gooding was cast as Simpson, the disgraced former athlete and actor at the center of the show. Playing Simpson was similar to the role that made Gooding famous: "I say this is my second stab at Rod Tidwell from 'Jerry Maguire,' because both of these personalities are born from this thing that happens with athletes ... One had a positive outcome and this one had a negative [one]," Gooding observed. Perhaps that's why both Gooding's performance and the series itself were critically acclaimed; Gooding even scored an Emmy nomination for his performance.

Gooding followed up this well-received performance with another Ryan Murphy project, as a main cast member of the sixth season of "American Horror Story," subtitled "Roanoke." Gooding starred alongside Sarah Paulson as a married couple terrorized by a group of murderers after moving to North Carolina. Though not as critically acclaimed as "American Crime Story," "Roanoke" still received positive reviews.

Both Ryan Murphy projects brought Gooding back into the spotlight for a short time, but they also led to yet another controversial incident. During a 2017 event promoting his "American Horror Story" season, Gooding was caught lifting up Sarah Paulson's skirt when she got up to greet actress Kathy Bates at the event. Despite backlash for his actions, Gooding shrugged it off

Brief Broadway stint

After both his runs on "American Horror Story" and "American Crime Story," it seemed like Gooding would be hot on the screen market once again. Instead, Gooding made the slightly unexpected move of following both his television appearances with a brief stint on stage. He'd already appeared on Broadway for 2013's well-received play "The Trip to Bountiful," but had yet to appear in a musical production. 

In 2018, he was cast in the London West End theater revival of "Chicago," playing the role of sleazy defense lawyer Billy Flynn. A turn on Broadway can showcase an actor's range while also earning them a pretty penny, but Gooding said he just wanted to "see if [he] could pull off a musical. That was the main reason." 

Reviews for Gooding's performance, and for the show overall, were mixed. While certain outlets like The Guardian gave relatively positive remarks to both Gooding's performance and the show as a whole, others reviewers like London Theatre were much more critical of the lackluster production value and the uninspired take on the long-running show. 

Gooding's run as Billy Flynn was short-lived. He concluded his run on Sept. 1 of that year before being replaced by Brian Kemp, though he returned to the role twice for brief runs in both 2018 and 2019.

Current-day problems

The current-day problems that have surrounded Gooding have stalled his career almost completely. As of 2021, the only notable film that Gooding starred in recently was the 2020 romantic drama film "Life in a Year," which starred Jaden Smith and Cara Delevingne as teenage lovers who decide to live their lives to the fullest when Delevingne's character reveals that she has terminal cancer. The film held promise; it also starred Nia Long and RZA, and was executive produced by Jaden's parents, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. But with negative reviews, limited streaming distribution, and another star accused of sexual misconduct (Chris D'Elia), the picture was quickly forgotten.

Despite various court appearances and no other film or television projects on the horizon, Gooding is still out there living his life, with the Daily Mail reporting that the actor was recently seen partying in Los Angeles, bar hopping and mingling with other patrons.

Comeback?

With another lawsuit pending and many other allegations still under investigation, it's safe to say that Gooding won't be making another large comeback anytime soon. With sexual misconduct allegations being taken more seriously after the rise of the #MeToo movement, most Hollywood studios wouldn't dare employ someone as controversial as Cuba Gooding Jr., especially with a list of accusers as long as his.

Whether or not Gooding does actually try to mount a comeback—either by more Direct-To-DVD films, another directing gig, or some other form of entertainment—remains to be seen. But numerous pending court appearances will most likely keep him busy for a while.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).