For his leading role in producer John Singleton’s Hustle & Flow, Howard received nominations for an Academy Award®, a Golden Globe, an Image Award and an Independent Spirit Award and won the Satellite Award for Best Actor. The song that he performs in the film received a Critics’ Choice Award and became the second rap song ever to receive an Academy Award®. The cast also received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
For the Oscar®-winning Best Picture Crash, Howard and the all-star cast, including Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Thandie Newton and Matt Dillon, received a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. The film was also nominated for a Gotham Award.
Keeping a powerful presence on the small screen as well, Howard was seen in the HBO film Lackawanna Blues, directed by George C. Wolfe and based on Tony Award-winning Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s autobiographical play. The cast, which includes Jeffrey Wright and S. Epatha Merkerson, was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. In 2006, Howard took on a new role as host of the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Independent Lens, a showcase for independent filmmakers that introduces a new drama or documentary in each episode.
Howard’s love for acting came naturally through summers spent with his New York stage actress grandmother, Minnie Gentry. He later began his acting career on The Cosby Show after being discovered on a New York City street by a casting director. The chance encounter helped Howard break into feature films and he was soon cast in such films as Mr. Holland’s Opus.
Howard’s memorable performances are of scene-stealing characters, including Cowboy in the Hughes brothers film Dead Presidents and Quentin in Malcolm D. Lee’s film The Best Man. The latter film earned him an NAACP Image Award, an Independent Spirit Award nomination and a Chicago Film Critics Association Award nomination.
His other film credits include Pride, starring opposite Bernie Mac, in which he played swim coach Jim Ellis, who started a swim team for troubled teens at the Philadelphia Department of Recreation; the crime drama Angel Eyes; Hart’s War; Four Brothers; Idlewild; and Jim Sheridan’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
Howard was most recently seen starring in Paramount Pictures’ Iron Man, opposite Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges, which is based on the famed comic-book series. He also recently starred in the Warner Bros. thriller The Brave One, with Jodie Foster; The Hunting Party, with Richard Gere; August Rush, with Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers; and The Weinstein Company’s Awake, with Jessica Alba and Hayden Christensen.
This past winter, Howard made his Broadway and stage debut in the revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, starring opposite Phylicia Rashad, James Earl Jones and Anika Noni Rose, directed by Debbie Allen.
A self-taught musician, Howard plays both the piano and the guitar. His musical talents were first seen on the big screen, opposite Jamie Foxx, in 2004’s Ray, for which they each earned a SAG Award nomination. In 2008, Howard released his debut album, “Shine a Light,” with Columbia Records, on which he performed, wrote and produced.
Howard is also an involved philanthropist. He partnered with The Daimler Chrysler Foundation in 2007 and helped to garner a donation of $35,000 for the Kaleidoscope program at the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia. He also recently became an ambassador for the EIF National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance and was recently announced as the Mentor Foundation’s 2009 Global Ambassador for the promotion of health and well-being of children around the world.