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Hope Floats: Forest Whitaker Before Idi Amin

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Hope Floats is remembered as a sweet love story starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr., but few recall it was directed by Forest Whitaker. After the 6’2″ athlete stopped playing football and studying opera — but before he skillfully embodied the brutal dictator Idi Amin — he directed romantic comedies about love and loss.

The “gentle giant” made his feature film directorial debut with the box office hit, Waiting to Exhale . Jumping to the other side of the camera when you’re successfully playing military men in major motion pictures is one thing. Transitioning to a story about four women who can’t find the right men in their lives is another. Whitaker wasn’t concerned by those who felt a black woman should be at the helm, “I never felt like the difficulty of my directing this story is that I’m not a woman,” he said. “Making a film about learning to feel good about yourself, your friendships and your relationships was very appealing to me.”

As for Hope Floats, it was not only about women, it was about white women. Before the film’s release Whitaker talked about his new role as a “ladies’ man” with the New York Times: “I didn’t see this as a chance to cross over,” he said back then. “I just saw it as a good story.” Whitaker clearly did something right — women came out in droves to see the film.

Never one to be pigeonholed, his next major role was playing a mafia hitman in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai .

Hope Floats plays tonight, Monday, February 25 at 8 PM | 7C.  For a complete schedule click here.

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