If there's one thing Terrence Howard knows for sure, it's that you should never give up on your dreams. Back in the early days of his career, long before an Oscar nomination for his role in the crime drama Hustle And Flow made him the toast of Tinseltown, the actor nearly quit the acting game in despair.
Although Terrence received widespread critical acclaim for his performance in the 1995 Richard Dreyfus vehicle Mr Holland's Opus, his hopes of receiving further high-profile offers never came to fruition. And after spending the following three years struggling to break out of minor supporting roles, he decided to admit defeat, moving to Philadelphia where he got a job cleaning carpets.
The 6ft 2in star couldn't shake off his love of performing, however, and a decision to give the big screen another try led to him being able to get accustomed to strutting his stuff on carpets of the red variety.
His passion for acting stems back to his early childhood when his grandmother, the New York stage actress Minnie Gentry, fostered his budding talent. Her care and attention proved a crucial influence in the life of a young man beset by more than his fair share of heartbreak. Born on March 11, 1969, in Chicago, Terrence experienced a childhood marked by tragedy. Aged three, he witnessed his dad kill another man in self-defence; a trauma which was compounded when the incident led to his father being convicted of manslaughter and jailed for five years.
Growing up with the emotional scars of such experiences cannot have been easy, but as the years passed it became clear Terrence was also blessed with intelligence, talent and determination. The softly-spoken star's interests aren't limited to the silver screen, as he also has an enduring enthusiasm for music and science. He holds a degree in chemical engineering and, a self-taught musician, is well-known for his mastery of both the guitar and piano.
His success also owes much to the sense of responsibility which proved a driving force, no matter what obstacles lay in his path. And he makes no bones about the fact that his main motivation is to make enough money to provide for his loved ones. "My father said to me, in tears, 'I am so sorry to put this on you son, but you are my retirement plan'," he recalls.
He admits the break-up of his marriage to Lori, the mother of his three children, took a heavy toll emotionally. The pair attempted a reconciliation, making their vows for a second time in 2005, but eventually decided it would be best to go their separate ways.
Making the best actor shortlist at the Academy Awards has made him a hot property in Tinseltown, however. And his personal life seems to have been touched by lady luck, too, as he has found a new romance with high school sweetheart Dayanara Torres, who was previously married to Jennifer Lopez's husband Marc Anthony.
Having travelled such a difficult path on the road to success, the performer would be forgiven for revelling in his moment of glory. Speaking of his Oscar nomination he admitted: "I'm damn near 37 years old and I'm jumping up and down on my bed like a ten-year-old. I was a wild man."