Gooding Jr. started as a professional dancer, performing at the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. He went on to do TV work in the '80s before making his film debut in a bit part in Coming to America. It was his intense yet sensitive performance as Tre Styles in 1991's Boyz N the Hood that made a strong impression on critics.
Just as critical interest was waning a few years later, Gooding rebounded as quarterback Rod Tidwell in Jerry Maguire (with his soon-ubiquitous catchphrase, "Show me the money!"); he spiked that ball with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. His other films include Men of Honor, The Fighting Temptations, Radio and Pearl Harbor (as World War II hero Dorie Miller).