Jennifer Hudson at the Academy Awards. She won best supporting actress for the film "Dreamgirls".
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos.
By CHRISTY LEMIRE
The Associated Press
In real life, Forest Whitaker is a gentle giant of a man, soft-spoken and unassuming. But his intense, volatile performance as Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland" was so overpowering there was no choice but to give him the Academy Award for it.
Whitaker was named best actor for his portrayal of the Ugandan dictator, under whose reign hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the 1970s. The hulking 45-year-old actor channeled Amin's animated method of speaking and his imposing demeanor, but he also showed Amin's insecurity, paranoia and vulnerability.
"When I was a kid the only way I saw movies was from the back of my family's car," he said, taking several deep breaths. "It wasn't my reality to think I'd be acting in movies and receiving this honor tonight. It tells me it's possible — it is possible — for a kid from East Texas who was raised in South Central L.A., in Carson, who believed in a dream, commits himself to them with his heart, to touch them and to have them happen."
Like most of the other actors winning awards Sunday night, Whitaker had been heavily favored. He'd already received a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Critics' Choice Award and kudos from film critics groups across the country.
Jennifer Hudson won the supporting-actress Academy Award on Sunday for "Dreamgirls," though her co-star and fellow front-runner Eddie Murphy lost the supporting-actor prize to Alan Arkin of "Little Miss Sunshine."
"More than anything, I'm deeply moved by the open-hearted appreciation our small film has received, which in these fragmented times speaks so openly of the possibility of innocence, growth and connection," said Arkin, who plays a foul-mouthed grandpa with a taste for heroin in the road comedy.
Hudson won an Oscar for her first movie, playing a powerhouse vocalist who falls on hard times after she is booted from a 1960s girl group. The role came barely two years after she shot to celebrity as an "American Idol" finalist.
"Oh my God, I have to just take this moment in. I cannot believe this. Look what God can do. I didn't think I was going to win," Hudson said through tears of joy. "If my grandmother was here to see me now. She was my biggest inspiration."
David Germain of the Associated Press also contributed to this article.