In this action drama directed by Antoine Fuqua, Washington plays McCall, a former Black Ops agent who fakes his own death in order to dedicate himself to a quiet life. After meeting a young Russian girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he comes out of his self imposed retirement and finds his desire for justice re-awakened. Co-starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Bill Pullman, David Harbour and Melissa Leo.
Well, I think he’s looking to put his past behind him and circumstances brought him here, working at Walmart. He’s trying real hard. I actually say…there’s a line I say, ‘I’ve done a lot of bad things in the past, things I’m not proud of.’ I actually promised, in my back story, I promised my wife that I wouldn’t go back to being that person, but you wouldn’t have a movie then [laughs], so he’s drawn back in.
Washington and Kimmel discuss why he chose Kimmel over Jeter and cell phones on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
I have been in some selfies.
Kravitz and Washington appear on The Late Show with David Letterman and talk about their boating holiday off the Amalfi Coast, in which Kravitz managed to talk Washington into watching his own films. Kravitz:
I got him to watch all of his movies. We sat on that boat – John Q, Man on Fire, Malcolm X – we watched them all. And what’s great is that you get the commentary.
I was good, too. I was like, “Wow, I’m good!”
Washington appears as a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman and talks about the possibility of being James Bond.
What happened was someone calls, like a talks radio show – I think I was in London, I was somewhere in Europe. And they said, “Would you want to be the next James Bond?” And I said, “Yeah, sure, why not. In fact, let’s start a campaign.” And you can’t say things like that, they started a campaign.
Washington stars in the The Equalizer, an action, crime, and thriller based on classic 1980s TV show that starred Edward Woodward. A former black ops commando who faked his death for a quiet life in Boston comes out of his retirement to rescue a young girl and finds himself face to face with Russian gangsters. Washington will work alongside Chloe Grace Moretz and Dan Bilzerian.
The title doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s the material. It’s a classic story, the innocent girl and the guy coming in to save the day and kick some butt. You’ll get some popcorn and escape for a couple of hours.
Washington plays DEA agent Bobby Trench in the 2013 action comedy film 2 Guns, alongside actor Mark Wahlberg. The film revolves around Trench and naval intelligence officer Stig, played by Wahlberg. After discovering an illegal alliance between Mexican cartels and U.S. federal agents, the duo is hunted down by both parties.
We did some stupid stuff. We hung upside down, and were gored by bulls.
Washington is nominated for Best Actor at the 85th Academy Awards for portraying William “Whip” Whitaker in Flight.
Flight was one of the most challenging roles I’ve ever had in my career, and it was an honor to be directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Washington plays pilot Whip Whitaker, a commercial airline pilot with an addiction to drugs and alcohol. After a malfunction on flight 227 results in a crash landing, Whitaker is faced with criminal charges for being intoxicated while on duty. Also starring Nadine Velazquez and John Goodman. On preparing for his role:
I ate a lot. I ate what I wanted and I ate late at night. I would come home from work. I didn’t overeat. But if I wanted a hamburger and fries and shake and a piece of apple pie with ice cream on it, I had it.
Washington gives an interview to The Talks. He discusses whether he likes playing the bad guy, his spirituality, and turning down roles because they typecast him.
Absolutely. My career is based on saying no. Sidney Poitier told me many, many years ago that the first four or five movies that you do will determine how you’re perceived in the business. So I was very blessed that the second movie I did was with Norman Jewison, the third movie I did was with Sidney Lumet, and the fourth movie I did was Cry Freedom with Richard Attenborough, for which I was nominated for the first time. I was off to the races. There were other movies that I could have done and I didn’t do.
Washington plays Tobin Frost in the action film Safe House. Matt Weston, played by Ryan Reynolds, is a bored, rookie CIA agent assigned to a Cape Town safe house, until he gets his first visitor: wanted rogue agent Tobin Frost. Frost is onto something big, and someone wants him dead. On preparing for his role:
Every day I wrote in my script or journal: How am I going to win today, and what am I going to win?
Washington plays Frank Barnes in Unstoppable, an action thriller about veteran train conductor Barnes and his apprentice Will Colson, played by Chris Pine. Not long into his new job, Colson must help Barnes stop a runaway train full of toxic chemicals before it crashes and spills into town. Also starring Rosario Dawson.
Yes, getting to drive a train was great. Everything on them hurts. You can step on something or hit your knee. It was dangerous all the time.
Washington plays the role of Eli in the 2010 action adventure The Book of Eli, alongside Gary Oldman and Mila Kunis. Set in post-apocalyptic America, a drifter known as Eli is on a mission heading west with a book of important value. Along the way mobster Carnegie, played by Oldman, is set on killing Eli and stealing the book by any means necessary.
There’s this whole issue, without giving it away, is he blind, is he not… If you look at the movie, sometimes I actually bumped into stuff, and they used it.
Washington plays Walter Garber alongside John Travolta. Ryder, played by Travolta, and his crew hijack New York subway train: Pelham 123. After the hijacking, Ryder insists that he will only negotiate with dispatcher Garber. Authorities question this as Garber was recently demoted and investigated for bribery. On working with director Tony Scott:
I loved working with Tony. He’s the best. He has a good heart. His brother said he’s the most technical advanced of any filmmaker that’s out there. He knows all the tricks, he knows every shot.
Washington talks about his reaction when reading the script for the movie The Great Debators:
The reaction you had in the screening room is the one I had. Man, it just moved me. I felt an emotional connection. What I learned while doing research for the film is that many black colleges, like Wiley and Morehouse, opened during the decade following the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.
Washington speaks to Oprah in an interview for O Magazine about his role in The Great Debaters.
Man, it just moved me. I felt an emotional connection. What I learned while doing research for the film is that many black colleges, like Wiley and Morehouse, opened during the decade following the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. That’s because education was believed to be the way out, so when millions of black people were finally let go after almost 250 years, boom, we opened schools. And that’s partly why Melvin Tolson’s debate team was able to beat these other national teams in the ’30s: Great thinkers such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Melvin B. Tolson couldn’t teach at schools like Harvard or Columbia. But the film is really about the kids and the journey of one boy in particular.
Washington directs and stars as Melvin B. Tolson in the biographical period drama, The Great Debaters. Based on the life of Wiley College’s debate coach Melvin Tolson, the film tells the story of how their 47th debate team made it to Harvard despite an era when the Jim Crow laws were commonplace. The film was produced by Oprah Winfrey. On directing:
It’s my passion. More than anything, I enjoy seeing talented people do what they do well. When you’re an actor, you come out of your trailer, do your thing, and then go back in. Directing is about collaboration—the production, the costuming, the script, the actors. I love it. It brings me joy.
Washington plays gangster Frank Lucas in the biographical crime drama American Gangster, opposite actor Russell Crowe. Set in the 70’s, the film tells the story of Lucas and how he became one of the biggest heroin dealers in New York. It also covers detective Richie Roberts, the man in charge of bringing Lucas down. The film is produced and directed by Ridley Scott. On portraying mob boss Frank Lucas:
It’s acting, first of all. And just because I play certain parts like that, doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t play other parts. Like people were shocked when I did Training Day. But that was one of the easiest roles for me.
Washington plays ATF agent Doug Carlin in the sci-fi thriller Deja Vu, alongside actors Val Kilmer, Paula Patton, and Jim Caviezel. After a ferry bombing in New Orleans, Carlin is invited to use the FBI’s newest surveillance technology which allows authorities to look back four days into the past. On working with director Tony Scott and film producer Jerry Bruckheimer:
It’s my third time with Tony and third time with Jerry and, needless to say, we’ve had tremendous success. Jerry just knows how to do it.
Washington plays Detective Keith Frazier in this crime drama. Frazier is assigned to a New York City bank robbery with dozens of hostages involved. The robbers a quick, efficient, and intelligent. The detective discovers that staying ahead of the criminals actually means playing right into their game. Co stars Clive Owen and Jodie Foster. On working with Foster:
Jodie’s cool. I like Jodie. I like her a lot, and obviously, she’s a great actress. So, I was excited about the opportunity to work with her.
Washington plays Major Ben Marco in the The Manchurian Candidate, alongside actor Liev Schreiber. After saving Marco and his men from an ambush during the Gulf War, Sergeant Raymond Shaw, played by Schreiber, has propelled his way into a vice presidential nomination. The closer Marco investigates the fateful day of the ambush, the more his life is threatened by the Manchurian Global Corporation.
If the film makes people think, that’s the point.
Washington plays Joyhn W. Creasy in the action thriller Man on Fire, alongside Christopher Walken, Mickey Rourke, and Dakota Fanning. Ex-CIA agent Creasy takes up a new job as the bodyguard for 9-year-old Lupita Ramos in Mexico City. After Lupita is kidnapped, Creasy is torn. He promises to find her and vows to kill anyone who is involved.
When we were working on Man on Fire, Tony Scott sent me a tape about the Iceman, the guy that killed all of those people. Later I saw this footage of a young girl getting shot. She didn’t do anything but drop. It’s morbid fascination, but that’s what I’m looking for.
Washington plays Chief of Police Matt Lee Whitlock in the crime drama Out of Time. After being set-up with a double homicide, Chief Whitlock must remain one step ahead of his own police force before he becomes a suspect himself. Co-starring Eva Mendes. On his character:
He’s very complex, which is what I thought was interesting. He’s human, stupid, arrogant, a big fish in a small pond, and worse than an adulterer. I see this as very much a film about temptation.
Washington plays Dr. Jerome Davenport in the 2003 biographical drama. The film is inspired by the true story of Antwone Fisher, a navy sailor with a troubled past, who is sent to consult with the navy psychiatrist for his violent confrontations. Also stars Derek Luke. It is also Washington’s directorial debut.
I think it’s a pretty good film. It’s a simple film and I think it has honesty and a lot of heart.
Washington wins a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Training Day.
It still feels good to know that people appreciate what you’re doing.
Washington plays John Quincy Archibald in the drama, John Q. After collapsing at his baseball game due to his enlarged heart, Archibald’s son, Michael is left no other option but to undergo a heart transplant. After being told that his insurance doesn’t cover his son’s transplant, Archibald takes the hospital hostage and demands the doctors save Michael’s life.
My character is a very sweet guy, a positive family man. One of my producing partners said, ‘If they don’t like you in Training Day, John Q can be your apology to your public.’
Washington plays detective Alonzo Harris in the crime drama Training Day, alongside costar Ethan Hawke. Hawke plays rookie Jack Hoyt on his first day on a Los Angeles police narcotics team being trained by Harris. Hoyt quickly finds out that Harris’ methods are nothing close to ethical.
A lot of credit goes to Antoine Fuqua, the director. He brought the gangster aspect into it. That line ‘King Kong ain’t got nothin’ on me…” I made that up. The character’s ego, he just did not think he could lose.
Washington plays Coach Herman Boone in the biographic drama Remember the Titans, alongside actor Will Patton. The film is based on the inspiring true story of Coach Herman Boone and his 1971 high school football team. The film covers topics of athletics, youth, and racism and is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. On taking on the role of Coach Boone:
And I read it and thought, Hmm. Interesting story. Interesting character. What really nailed it for me was meeting Coach Boone.
Washington plays the role of former boxing champion Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in biographical film The Hurricane. The film tells the story on how Carter was wrongfully accused and convicted of a triple homicide back in 1966 and the 20 years he spent in prison because of it.
I think it’s one of those films whose reputation will gain over time. It’s the one I’m most proud of, right up there with Malcolm X.
Washington plays ex-forensic cop Lincoln Rhyme in the crime drama The Bone Collector. A tunnel accident results in Rhymes becoming a quadriplegic. Depressed, Rhymes is about to give up when a series of murders gives him interest in living again. With rookie Amelia Donaghy, played by actress Angelina Jolie, on the field, Rhymes has everything he needs to hunt down the serial killer.
When I first saw the film myself, I was scared to death a few times. I think Phillip Noyce [the director] did an incredible job of creating a claustrophobic and haunting atmosphere.
Washington plays Anthony ‘Hub’ Hubbard in the crime drama The Siege. New York becomes the target for a number of terrorist attacks after the U.S. government kidnaps the leader of a religious Islamic group. FBI agent Hubbard and CIA agent Kraft, played by Annette Bening, work together to find the terrorist behind the attacks.
I was amazed to know how much we don’t know about the threat on terrorism…I was amazed to know how much slips through.
Washington plays Jake Shuttlesworth in the basketball drama He Got Game. Jesus Shuttlesworth, played by NBA star Ray Allen, is the top-ranked basketball player in the nation. Every college wants him. After being sent to prison after accidently killing his wife, Jake is told he will be released early if he gets his son to play ball for the Governor’s alma mater.
Well, I played ball in college. I’m over the hill now. I hung up my knees. I’ve had surgery on both knees, on one knee six or seven weeks before we started shooting. So when it came to the character, that became a part of my thing.
Washington plays detective John Hobbes in the crime thriller Fallen. Hobbes finally catches serial killer Edgar Reese, who is executed. However, he soon discovers more murders in the style of Reese. As he digs deeper, all of his clues point to an evil spirit named Azazel, which can transfer itself to anyone it pleases. The film also stars John Goodman and Donald Sutherland. On the theme of this film:
I believe in lesser manifestations of good. I believe that they exist, I believe that they do. I believe that we can give them power by the choices we make…
Washington plays Dudley in the comedy drama The Preacher’s Wife. Reverend Henry Biggs and his wife Julia, played by actors Courtney B. Vance and Whitney Houston, are losing their small Baptist church due to declining membership. Unsure of what to do, the reverend prays to God. A charming angel named Dudley comes along to show them the way. Houston on Washington:
Denzel’s funny, he likes to have fun and frolic around a lot.
Washington plays Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Serling in the drama Courage Under Fire. After her death, Captain Karen Walden, played by actress Meg Ryan, is set to be the first woman to receive the Medal of Honor. As Serling investigates the incident and the worthiness of her the award, conflicting stories send him on a hunt for the truth.
I also had the opportunity to talk to many soldiers…who had fought in Desert Storm and other battles.
Washington plays Ezekiel ‘Easy’ Rawlins in the crime drama Devil in a Blue Dress. Set in the 1940’s, Rawlins, a World War II veteran, returns home looking for a job. As a private investigator he takes on his first case which involves looking for a missing woman. With the war behind him, Rawlins steps into a new career full of corrupt cops, gangsters, and murder.
I really got into it as I did the research and started. I even went to Houston. I went to the Third Ward and I met guys who were kind of prominent in the neighborhood now. They introduced me to the old guys…
Washington plays Lt. Parker Barnes in the action sci-fi film Virtuosity. A program meant to help train police officers is created from the personalities of over 100 serial killers. Russell Crowe plays the program, which is somehow synthesized and processed into the real world, and it is up to Barnes to try and stop him. On taking part in the film:
It was fascinating. I said I don’t think that anybody has done this yet, and if we can do it right, if we can get the script right and he can get the technology right, then we’ll have something interesting.
Washington plays Lt. Commander Ron Hunter in the action drama Crimson Tide. The U.S. Navy sends a nuclear ballistic submarine to intercept a possible launch from Russia. Captain Frank Ramsay, played by actor Gene Hackman, and Hunter do not agree with their orders and a mutiny within the sub is organized. On acting alongside Hackman:
I’d sit there sometimes and they’d almost have to go, ‘Denzel, your line.’ I was watching one of the great actors of all time.
Washington plays lawyer Joe Miller in the drama Philadelphia. Attorney Andrew Beckett, played by Tom Hanks, is fired from his law firm after they find out that he has contracted AIDS. He decides to sue his firm with the help of homophobic lawyer, Miller. After spending time with Beckett, Miller starts to understand that he is no different than anyone else. Hanks thanks Washington as he receives an Oscar Award for his performance:
…and a cast that includes many other people, but the actor who really put his film image at risk and shone because of his integrity, Mr. Denzel Washington.
Washington plays reporter Gray Grantham in the crime drama The Pelican Brief. A law student, played by Julia Roberts, writes a legal brief about the motives behind the killings of two Supreme Court justices. A failed assassination attempt on her life validates the accuracy of her brief. She teams up with Grantham as they both try to find evidence of the truth. On accepting the role:
They just asked me to do it. I said, ‘Hey, this is a no-brainer.’ I got to ride the Julia machine. Julia’s a moneymaking machine.
Washington plays Don Pedro in this romantic comedy film based on the William Shakespeare play of the same name. As the Prince of Aragon, he is the most powerful character in the story, and uses this to manipulate events like bringing Beatrice and Benedick together and arranging the marriage of Claudio and Hero. The film also stars Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, and Kate Beckinsale.
I’ve never acted as silly in a movie as I am in this one.
Washington plays the title character in the biographical drama Malcolm X. This film tells the story of one of the most influential and controversial African American leaders of the century -- his early life as an unknown gangster, becoming a member of the Nation of Islam, being a human rights activist, and getting assassinated. He co-stars with Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, and Spike Lee.
For young people, I would like them to see that one doesn’t have to be a slave to one’s environment. That one can pull oneself out.
Washington and wife Pearson welcome their first child, John David Washington, into the world.
I remember my eldest boy saying ‘Dad, I always thought you were so strict – now I appreciate it.’
The actor graduates from Fordham University with a B.A. in Drama and Journalism. He originally takes up biology, but after dropping out for a semester to work at a YMCA camp as creative arts director, he comes back with a new focus. On his time at Fordham:
Being in this part of town at that time, on this stage, I can’t tell you how much it did for me…I was right here at Lincoln Center, right in the middle of things.
Toward the end of his parents’ divorce, he is sent away to Oakland Military Academy in New York. His mother is now a single parent. The actor will not speak to his father again until his 20s.
My mother could see what was coming. She scraped together enough money to put me into private school and in summer she’d send me to camp.
Denzel Hayes Washington Jr. is born in Mount Vernon, New York. His father, Denzel Washington, Sr. is a Pentecostal minister and his mother Lennis, is a beautician. A middle child, he has an older sister named Lorice and a younger brother named David. At the age of 14, his parents’ divorce. Washington starts hanging out on the streets and getting into fights.
I started heading toward the streets, getting into all sorts of trouble. My three closest friends ended up in penitentiaries.