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Forest Whitaker's Portrait of a Dictator

Playing a character who is both loved and feared is a daunting task for any actor.

Forest Whitaker embraced just such a challenge in making the film The Last King of Scotland, which opens in theaters on Wednesday. Whitaker plays Idi Amin, the late Ugandan dictator who took control of the former British colony in the 1970s and ruled with an iron fist.

The film follows his story, seen through the eyes of a young Scottish doctor who finds himself thrust into Amin's inner circle.

Both charismatic and cruel, Amin was accused of ordering the killings of an estimated 300,000 people before he was deposed and forced to flee to Saudi Arabia in 1979.

During his rule, he gave himself a grandiose title -- His Excellency President for Life Field Marshal Al Hadji Dr. Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, King of Scotland Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.

Whitaker spent months in Uganda interviewing the dictator's family members and also with former government officials. He talked with those who had suffered at the hands of Amin. He even learned enough Swahili so that he could ad-lib dialogue with the Ugandan actors and extras working on the film.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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