The 35-year-old Oscar-winning actor ( Jerry Maguire) stars as the title character in Radio, which opens on Oct. 24.
SI: Radio, about a mentally challenged man who assists a high school football team, is based on a story Gary Smith wrote for SI in 1996. Did you read it?
Gooding Jr.: Of course. I wanted to know how much of the screenplay was drawn from who the guy is. When I read the article, I was like, Wow, there is a guy out there like that.
SI: How much time did you spend with the real-life Radio, James Robert Kennedy?
Gooding Jr.: I couldn't sit down and have an interview. He didn't really have the capacity to do that. So I didn't meet him until three weeks into the filming. The only way I could draw from him was to watch tapes of him and interviews with people who knew him or took care of him.
SI: You're in an NHL ad campaign that also features Shania Twain, Jim Belushi, Denis Leary and Kiefer Sutherland. If I put you five on the ice as a team, how would you do?
Gooding Jr.: Against who? Against a bunch of nuns, we would whup 'em. But that's about it.
SI: Roger Moore said that it was time for a black James Bond and that you would make a great 007.
Gooding Jr.: Well, I have too much blackness to be a James Bond. You know what I'm saying? I have too much sex appeal.
SI: Did any real-life athletes inspire your Rod Tidwell character in Jerry Maguire?