The Forest Whitaker collection consists of manuscripts, professional material, artwork, correspondence, printed material, film and video, photographs, research material, and memorabilia.
Manuscripts in the collection primarily consist of screenplays and teleplays by various authors (some with multiple, variant drafts). Whitaker performed in and/or directed the productions of many of these works, but there are several scripts present for films or television programs in which he did not appear. Notable titles include Door to Door, by William H. Macy and Schachter (2000);The Great Debaters, by Robert Eisele (2007); The Last King of Scotland, by Piers Morgan (2004); two episodes of The Shield (2005); Street Kings, by James Ellroy (2004-2007); Where the Wild Things Are, by Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers (2005-2008); several episodes of The Twilight Zone (2002-2003); Phenomenon, by Gerald diPego (1995); Hope Floats, by Steven Rogers (1995-1997); Erin Brockovich, by Susannah Grant (1999); Deacons for Defense, by Richard Wesley (2002) and Frank Military (revised version, 2003); and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, by Jim Jarmusch (1998). Some productions include extensive manuscripts as well as other material; these include the films Waiting to Exhale, Fat Albert, First Daughter, Chasing Papi, Hope Floats, and The Last King of Scotland. The material for Waiting to Exhale includes drafts of the screenplay, by Terry McMillan and Ron Bass (1995); extensive production files; videos; audience surveys; and legal and financial material. The material for Chasing Papi includes several drafts of the screenplay; production files; and storyboards. The material for First Daughter includes several drafts of the screenplay; several production files; storyboards; several photographs used in pre-production; research material; and numerous videos. The material for Fat Albert includes numerous drafts of the screenplay, including several by Bill Cosby and Louis C.K.; videos; storyboards; production files; and other items. The material for The Last King of Scotland includes drafts of the screenplay; production files; research material (printed items and footage); video; and photographs. The material for Hope Floats includes drafts of the screenplay; extensive production files; storyboards; audience surveys; notebooks; and other material.
Professional material in the collection primarily consists of production files for various films. These files can include scripts, casting information, note pads, production crew lists, photographs, photocopies, correspondence, schedules, financial material, contact information, and printed items. Notable titles include Panic Room, Deacons for Defense, Ghost Dog, The Great Debaters, Primary Colors, Saturday Night Live, The Twilight Zone (ca. 2002), The Last King of Scotland, Hurricane Season, Hope Floats, and others. Also present are some personal photographs, including images of Whitaker, Gena Rowlands, Sandra Bullock. Additional professional material consists of office files, publicity material, rights and clearances, material regarding soundtracks and casting, items from Whitaker’s desk, and other similar material.
Artwork in the collection includes storyboards for Dewmocracy, American Gun, and First Daughter. Also present are color prints from Dewmocracy; an acrylic painting titled "A Moment in Bunkie," by Steve Bakunas (2008); and a drawing in pen and marker of Whitaker as an M and M candy.
Correspondence in the collection includes personal and professional letters. Notable correspondents includes Katie Holmes, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Terry McMillan, Quincy Jones, Loretta DeVine, Walter Mosley, and others. Files of letters are present regarding Waiting to Exhale (1994-1995), Hope Floats (1994-1996), Spirit Dance Entertainment (2000-2001), Chasing Papi / Papi Chulo (2001), Fat Albert (ca. 2002), Last King of Scotland (2007), and other subjects. Personal letters date from 1994 to 2002, and include several cards, letters and notes from various individuals.
Printed material in the collection includes booklets, newsletters, periodicals, and other items collected by Whitaker, dating from the 1990s to the present. These items include numerous film and show-business magazines, as well as items of personal interest to Whitaker. Also present is publicity and press material regarding several films, as well as posters and other items.
Film and video material in the collection is extensive. Most of the items are video cassettes (primarily VHS), but include some digital video discs, U-Matic cassettes, and digital audio tape. They pertain to various film and television productions, and consist of demo reels, audition tapes, research footage, dailies, casting tapes, rough cuts, and similar items. Notable titles represented include American Gun, Black Jag, Deacons for Defense, Fat Albert, Feast of All Saints, First Daughter, Waiting to Exhale, The Last King of Scotland, Hope Floats, Strapped, Black Jaq, Ghost Dog, Deacons for Defense, Witness Protection, Green Dragon, Chasing Papi, and The Twilight Zone (2002-2003).
Photographs in the collection primarily consist of prints and other images used in pre-production on various films, to provide visual references and ideas for locations, wardrobe and costume designs, makeup, continuity, props, etc. Titles include Dewmocracy, First Daughter, Hurricane Season, The Last King of Scotland, Powder Blue, Panic Room, Waiting to Exhale, Hope Floats, The Falconer, and Fat Albert. Also present are films stills and candid set photographs from films in which Whitaker appeared, including The Color of Money, Platoon, Stakeout, Good Morning Vietnam, Bird, Johnny Handsome, Downtown, Criminal Justice, A Rage in Harlem, Diary of a Hitman, Article 99, Strapped, Blown Away, Pret-à-Porter, and Battlefield Earth. Images of notable individuals include Stephen Bochco, George Lucas, Danny DeVito, Angela Bassett, Dennis Hayesbert, Katie Holmes, Michael Keaton, Paul Newman, Oliver Stone, Willem Dafoe, Johnny Depp, Charlie Sheen, Morgan Freeman, Mickey Rourke, Anthony Edwards, Danny Glover, Gregory Hines, Ray Liotta, Sharon Stone, Kiefer Southerland, Jeff Bridges, Clint Eastwood, Whitney Houston, and others. Other photographs in the collection include portraits of Whitaker, Whitaker on set, snapshots of him, and other images.
Research material in the collection includes several photocopied items regarding Ugandan President Idi Amin, used as research for The Last King of Scotland; printed items used for Hurricane Season; several books Whitaker read for Ghost Dog, Deacons of Defense, and First Daughter; and several videotapes of martial-arts and/or samurai-themed films, watched as research for Ghost Dog.
Memorabilia in the collection includes items regarding Hurricane Season, including the back of Whitaker’s director’s chair, two pads of basketball coaching diagrams, a film crew badge, a basketball court dry-erase board, basketball notebooks, and a clipboard used as a film prop. Other items include seat-backs from productions of The Shield, Joey, First Daughter, Jump Shot, Hope Floats, and Light It Up; a signed Ugandan 50-shilling note; various awards and certificates, including his Golden Globe nomination as an actor for Bird (1988), his Screen Actors Guild nomination for The Enemy Within (1994) and Deacons for Defense (2003), and his NAACP Image Awards (2004); Blueprints for First Daughter, over 20 rolled blueprints of sets for The White House, dorm rooms, meeting rooms, and other interior and exterior designs; and photocopied programs from Whitaker's college theatre productions (1982).