Cuba Gooding Jr. speaks with The Citizen about fame, parenting and his new film, ‘Daddy Day Camp'

Tue, 08/07/2007 - 1:19pm
By: Emily Baldwin

He made it through “Pearl Harbor,” he’s left the “Rat Race” behind him, and he touched America’s hearts through “Radio,” now he’s asking theater-goers to show him the money with their purchase of tickets to his new film, “Daddy Day Camp.”

Last week I spoke with Cuba Gooding Jr. by phone during a break in his touring schedule while out promoting his new film, which hits theaters today.

“Daddy Day Camp” picks up where the 2003 film “Daddy Day Care” left off. This time around, the film has a whole new cast and crew, including the switch from Eddie Murphy to Gooding in the role of Charlie Hinton, and is directed by Fred Savage of “The Wonder Years” fame.

The film picks up at the end of another successful year of the Daddy Day Care business. Charlie and his business partner and best friend Phil (Paul Rae) have once again managed to run their business successfully out of Charlie’s home, and they are looking forward to a relaxing summer. All that changes when Charlie and Phil take over Camp Driftwood, the day camp of their youth, and try to make a successful go as camp owners and counselors.

Gooding says he wasn’t looking to do a remake or a sequel when the script for “Daddy Day Camp” arrived on his desk. “My agent sent me the script and told me to read it,” said Gooding. “I read the script and really loved the story.” He particularly connected with the story-line revolving around the father-son relationship in the film.

Gooding says that he signs on for films based on how he connects with the role, “It’s all about the emotion of the character. A script has to move me on an emotional level, and if that happens I’m in.”

“Everyone involved in this film made a conscious decision not to look at it as a sequel,” said Gooding. “What resulted was a film with a lot more heart. The first one [“Daddy Day Care”] was fun, but this one deals more with the father-son relationship. It’s more emotional.”

Gooding has three children, two boys and a girl ages - 12, 10 and 2 respectively, with his wife Sara, and can relate to his character’s hesitation when it comes to camping, “My kids love to camp. They go camping about every week during the summer,” said Gooding. “I’m much more like my character. If I have to spray something on me to keep the bugs away, I’m not interested.”

Luckily, filming “Daddy Day Camp” didn’t require too many hours outdoors for Gooding who says he spent much of his time in a posh trailer on the Utah film set.

Gooding had never worked with Savage before this film, in fact he says it took him a little while to figure out how he knew Savage’s name.

“I had a two hour lunch with Fred, he was the first director I met with, and after it I said I didn’t want to meet with anyone else,” the actor enthused. “He knew how to keep these kids energized and focused...I think that his growing up as a child star helped him in that. Fred really made it work.”

An old Hollywood slogan says that actors should never work with animals or children, and Gooding has done both; first with “Snowdogs” and now with “Daddy Day Camp.” Of working with his pint-sized co-stars, Gooding says “It takes a lot of patience.” Patience is one thing Gooding says he has learned to keep in heavy supply given his increased popularity as a celebrity.

“If you travel with me for two days you’ll see that it’s a workout and requires patience,” Gooding explains. “People are always shouting ‘Show me the money!’ and wanting to take your picture and sitting down with you while you’re trying to eat and following you.”

As for how Gooding is dealing with his time in the Hollywood spotlight and all the negatives that come with the perks of stardom, he says “You can’t let it bother you.”

“It’s a give and take situation. It’s the business,” says the actor who landed an Oscar for his role in “Jerry Maguire.” “Fame is work, but it’s something that you can’t wish for something else too bad because you might get what you wish for and be done.”

Gooding says his two pre-teen sons have already expressed an interest in acting, but he says that they will have to wait until they are 18 to get started. “I tell them it’s an adult responsibility,” Gooding said. “Right now they have to be kids.” Gooding’s take on child actors isn’t surprising given the current list of pseudo-adults currently making headlines after growing up in the world of entertainment.

Next up for Gooding is a more serious turn as a drug lord in the Ridley Scott directed “American Gangster.” The film stars Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe and comes out in November.

“Daddy Day Camp” is rated PG and hits theaters today.

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