In many ways, it is Gooding's trip as well after a few fallow years where his career seemed mired. The guy who'd won an Oscar in Cameron Crowe's 1996 film, "Jerry Maguire," was now appearing in lackluster fare such as "Rat Race," ''Daddy Day Camp," ''Boat Trip," ''Chill Factor" and "Snow Dogs."
Gooding, having coffee in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel, admits to some acting mistakes and sometimes getting caught up in the silly business of who gets the top magazine covers. But he says a new chapter has opened.
"There was so much expectation after I won the Oscar. And so many opinions that floated around, and the negativity about me and my choices. And there were some missteps on my part — I was saying 'no' to a lot of good directors that I shouldn't have," he says.
"Now that I'm at this creative place, I understand the path God put me on. He put me where I'm supposed to be right now. Now if there's anything to prove, it's that that first promise of my ability was correct and I'm ready to engage again."
Gooding, whose home is in Los Angeles, has been flirting with a stage debut for a few years, but needed something special to make him leave his wife and three children, who range in age from 18 to 7.
He was recently offered the part of Stanley Kowalski in a revival of "Streetcar Named Desire" in London, but plans fell through. Then his agent sent him the script of "The Trip to Bountiful."
Wilson recalls talking with Gooding about the role and then inviting him to join the production. "He has just approached it with tremendous energy and heart." When he was offered the role by text, Gooding responded, in tears, "There aren't words. I'm calling my mother right now."