News for 12/13/2006

Denzel Washington Experiences Déjà Vu

Source: Heather Newgen

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines déjà vu as "a: the illusion of remembering scenes and events when experienced for the first time b: a feeling that one has seen or heard something before." It's that feeling that steers ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) in Touchstone's new action thriller Déjà Vu through a horrific crime scene and onto a puzzling mystery which leads him to an elite group of scientists and special agents. They introduce him to a powerful technique which enables you to time travel and through this scientific experiment, he has a chance of going back and racing time to save hundreds of lives.

At a recent press conference for the film, Washington, overwhelmed by the room full of reporters shouting out questions, put everyone in check by reminding the journalists he was the "Sexiest Man Alive" and to show control. He had no problems jokingly telling a reporter who kept interrupting him to stop and he made another member of the press stand up and moderate the questioning. It was rather entertaining, to say the least.

CS: Can you talk about working with newcomer Paula Patton?
Denzel Washington: Tony Scott said, "I've got this girl. You don't know her. She hasn't done anything, but she's right for the part." I read with her and I was not nervous, but just like, "well, she hasn't done anything." She's a wonderful person. You know, a lot of energy! But she's a lovely girl. She's a sweetheart, and he was right. She has this quality that you want to care about. You want to take care of her.

CS: Have you ever had déjà vu with romance?
Washington: You know what? I had one today. I'm going to get the mail out of the mailbox and I'm walking around and I'm out on the street by my front gate. I've got a feeling somebody's going to drive by so I just stood out there and a white truck comes by and it stops. It backs up and it's Eddie Murphy. And I just had a feeling somebody was [coming, so I said to myself] I'll just stand here another second. And it wasn't 10 seconds he drove by and gave me the whole scoop on "Dreamgirls." He said the girl is stealing the movie. What's her name?

[A reporter shouts out Jennifer Hudson]

Washington: Okay. (laughs) That's her name. Have you seen it? Has anybody seen it yet? So she's good. They said she stops the movie.

CS: You mentioned Paula's enthusiasm. She had a very nice compliment for you. She said you said it helped remind you what it felt like at (a young age).
Washington: Yeah. As you know in any profession, it can get to be one junket too many sometimes, and then some young girl, fresher journalist, comes along, so excited, and you're probably pissed off at them. No, it is refreshing and it is a reminder of what a privilege it is to be in this industry and to be able to do what you like and to be compensated in an amazing and ridiculous way for doing something that you want to do. And in those days where you just don't feel like coming out of the trailer and then you meet this young person it's all fresh and new. It reminds you. It takes you back. It's like hey, be thankful for what you got.

CS: you've been in a lot of high dramas, also a lot of kick-ass action movies. Is this the same sort of approach for you, or is this more fun?
Washington: The approach is the same. I mean you research, the approach is the same in that you try to develop a character and interpret the screenplay. What did you say?(....Read More)

News for 11/29/2006

Denzel Washington, Keeping His Cool

By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer

Want to know how to tick off Denzel Washington?

Think about it for a second -- because, honestly, why is that something you really feel the need to do?

The guy is a paragon of decency, for goodness sakes, a cat who wears virtue like an exquisite Armani tux, and all he has ever done is love his wife and his God, help a bunch of poor kids and make a slew of fine movies for your viewing pleasure.

But, okay, if you must know, here's the rub: Get him on the phone toward the end of a long day of junket interviews with hack reporters and ask the man, two Oscars in and age 51, what's left for him.

"She says, 'What's left for you now?' " he'll exclaim to some publicist/assistant type in the background. "Life is left! How old are you?"


Probably it'll wash right over, though, in a shower of that decency, when you explain that the question didn't come out quite as intended, that what you really wanted to know is what hasn't he done that he'd still like to do and that you were just caught off guard when, after 18 minutes of conversation that felt like a preamble to an introduction, he said he needed to wrap it up.

Denzel Washington is laughing, anyway -- and, Lord, that's a laugh. Deep and easy and authentic. And somehow at odds with the adjectives tossed his way every time his face appears in the spotlight. "Handsome" and "sexy" always show up first, of course, but then come words such as "guarded, "aloof," "deeply private."

And maybe he is. Maybe that's exactly the way Washington, who has taken the opportunity to chat with us about his new high-tech thriller "Deja Vu," which opens Wednesday, should be described. There is, however, one other, slightly uncomfortable possibility: We no longer know what to make of celebrities who refuse to offer us deranged antics to analyze.

Washington doesn't go club-hopping with starlets. He doesn't launch into drunken, anti-Semitic tirades. There aren't any on-set temper tantrums. Glaringly absent: repeated stints in rehab, illegitimate offspring, legal feuds with Beverly Hills neighbors, Internet sex tapes, rumored eating disorders, sordid strip club escapades. And where, oh, where is that reality show needed to illuminate the more mundane dysfunction surely percolating inside "Denzel's House"?

Except maybe the dysfunction doesn't exist. The man doesn't even wade into that most pedestrian source of celebrity gossip fodder -- politics. Asked about the social commentary underlying the plot of "Deja Vu," in which his character tries to stop an Oklahoma City-style bomber using secret government surveillance technology that can see inside any building in the world, Washington concedes that it's an interesting debate. "We say to our government, 'Yes, catch the bad guys, but don't come into our house to do it.' It is tricky, the times that we live in."

But he goes no further.

Question: Did you do a lot of research going into this?

"As much as we could."

Question: Do you have a method to prepare for each role?


Well, okay then.

Anyway, what is it, really, we want to know about Denzel Washington that he won't tell us? Maybe a few things, but in truth, his story is well-known, and mostly because he has been willing to share it time and time again. That it might not be sensational enough for modern tabloid tastes is a different matter.

Washington has been married for 23 years to the same woman, Pauletta, which isn't doing US Weekly's editors any favors. He's a former Little League coach of a dad to four kids in their teens and early 20s of whom he's so proud, he told Oprah Winfrey a few weeks back, that "my shirt's not big enough for my chest." (His oldest son, John David, was recently recruited to play for the St. Louis Rams after a football career at Morehouse College.) He's an impassioned supporter of the Boys & Girls Clubs, and he's a preacher's son who grew up to be one of the most respected performers of a generation but still follows the "Cagney by Cagney" philosophy of the profession: Acting is a job, and then you go home.

No life is untroubled, of course, but Washington seems to have dispensed with his share of turmoil early on. Growing up in Mount Vernon, N.Y., he split time between his mother's beauty shop, his father's church and the Boys Club. When his parents divorced when he was 14, he began to run the streets a bit, getting into fights and playing at the edges of more serious transgressions. A scholarship and his mother's insistence sent him to a boarding school upstate, and from there a path was blazed to Fordham University and a life lived graciously.

It could have been different, of course, and here's where Washington gets on a roll.

"I remember one of the counselors at the club saying, 'With all your smarts, you can do anything you want to do,' and I walked out of that club like, 'Hey, that's a concept I never thought about: I can do anything I want to do,' " he says. "So, I mean, you never know what influences people, and you never know how you can help turn a person around with a kind word or a piece of advice."

And thus Washington now has a book. Not because he was itching to become an author, but because he's a "How high?" kind of guy when it comes to the Boys & Girls Clubs, which asked him to anchor a book for their benefit. "A Hand to Guide Me" is a collection of essays by such people as Jimmy Carter and Colin Powell remembering the unsung mentors who shaped their early lives.

It was during a Boys Club camp variety show that Washington became enthralled with performance. Ambitions of medicine and journalism were abandoned; he landed the lead in a college play, had a TV movie booked before graduation and has rarely stopped working since. His epitaph, he once said, should read: "Hard work is good enough."

It has been good, and it has been almost continuous. A part on the TV drama "St. Elsewhere" led to acclaimed performances in such movies as 1987's "Cry Freedom," 1992's "Malcolm X" and 1993's "Philadelphia." For his portrayal of an ex-slave in "Glory" (1989), he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The 2001 role of a renegade cop in "Training Day" put him in a two-person club with Sidney Poitier, the only other black man to win a Best Actor Oscar.

What he seeks in projects now, he says, is simply "a good story -- good filmmaker and good story." What he brings to those projects, whether audiences notice or not, is his religion. More than anything, Washington says he is a "God-fearing man -- a man of God, child of God" who thought seriously about becoming a preacher and insists a spiritual message be present in each of his films.

"Not that I'm trying to hit people over the head and say, 'You must convert,' but we all have a spiritual nature and I don't think we should deny that," he says. "We should embrace it."

From another man, a sentence like that might verge on insufferable. The trick to Washington's cool is that he never seems to be posturing for effect. He hasn't been perfect -- he told Barbara Walters that in 1993 when she asked about fidelity -- but what he has said since is "there are only four women in the world: the one you marry, your mother, your daughter and all the rest of them. As long as you keep that perspective, you'll be all right."

So let's just make it clear that we expect there is plenty, plenty left to come from this man. Washington just finished shooting "American Gangster," a crime drama expected to be released next year. He wants to return again to the stage, as he did last year, playing Brutus in a Broadway revival of "Julius Caesar," and in March he'll start directing "The Great Debaters," marking his second turn behind the camera.

And there's another plan for his next 51 years, one we'll let him share in his own words: "Make people better. Lift them up.

"I wouldn't want to go through life saying I didn't help."

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In Denzel Washington we trust

An actor so good that he can make even a ludicrous film watchable


By Michael Ventre
MSNBC contributor

It is a mistake to conclude that what turns an actor into a movie star is a certain indefinable something. It is explained that way because in truth there are too many factors, making a simple definition impossible.

Likeability figures into it. A sense of dignity is present. One would hope talent is involved, as well as hard work and passion for the craft. A pleasing physical presence helps tremendously. Nuances involving humor, intelligence, pathos, strength, chutzpah and others enter into the equation.

What makes Denzel Washington one of the greatest actors working today is that he possesses all of these gifts and more.

His performance in “The Manchurian Candidate” is the latest evidence. As Ben Marco, an Army major who is tormented by bad dreams and slowly uncovers a nefarious plot to take over the White House, Washington is incredible in an understated and effortless way. He straddles the line between madness and clarity. He firmly anchors a film based on an outlandish premise. In a Hollywood thriller that could have been head-shakingly awful in the wrong hands, Washington provides the gravitas in the lead performance that keeps it all in the realm of believability.

We trust Denzel. He has built that trust over many years, and he never lets us down.

Breakout roles

There are certain touchstone roles throughout his career that come to mind whenever he is mentioned, beginning with Dr. Philip Chandler on “St. Elsewhere.” It was an ensemble, so there was no one star around which the rest orbited. St. Eligius Hospital in Boston was populated by the likes of Ed Flanders, Norman Lloyd, Ed Begley Jr., Howie Mandel, Terence Knox, Mark Harmon and Ellen Bry. But it was Washington who broke out with a character who embodied class, heart and ethics. After six years on the show, he was ready for movie stardom. His small amount of time on the small screen nevertheless promised bigger things to come.

While in the midst of “St. Elsewhere,” he would moonlight in features. It was “Cry Freedom” in 1987, as South African activist Steve Biko, that garnered his first of five career Academy Award nominations. Then in 1989, at the end of the show’s run, he took a role as Private Trip, a member of an all-black unit during the Civil War, in Ed Zwick’s “Glory.” Trip was bitter and angry, but also courageous and strong, and Washington devoured it. Trip remains one of Denzel’s most important roles, because it came in a historically significant picture and presented an opportunity to play a multi-layered character. When Hollywood saw the results, Denzel Washington’s name forced its way on the A-list. He won an best-supporting actor Oscar that year in a field that included Marlon Brando and Martin Landau.

From there, his choices widened, and he mixed in weighty roles with typical studio fare. He made three movies with Spike Lee, including “Malcolm X,” which snagged him a best actor nomination. In 1996, he appeared in another film by Zwick, “Courage Under Fire,” which catapulted him into the $10 million salary stratosphere. His career momentum just kept building.

Rising to the challenges

One of the measures of his success is his ability to transcend stinkers. Even the films he appeared in that did not do well either critically or commercially or both — “Mississippi Masala,” “Virtuosity,” “The Preacher’s Wife” and “Fallen” come to mind — did not cause his star to flicker. He proved not only to be credible and respectable, but also bankable.

It may have something to do with his desire to take on work that bears some cultural significance. In “Cry Freedom,” “Glory,” “Malcolm X” and later as director and co-star in “Antwone Fisher,” Washington demonstrates his knack for accepting projects that may not have boffo box office written on them, then raising their value by his mere presence.

He continued that trend with “The Hurricane” in 1999. He played former boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a man wrongly imprisoned for murder whose spirit is battered by a long incarceration but not broken. Like his characters in “Cry Freedom,” “Glory” and “Malcolm X,” it is injustice caused by racism that serves to drive the story and provides a platform for his considerable abilities.

That Washington takes on these roles and executes them to near perfection is no small feat. In the hands of a lesser actor, a character embittered by outside forces or wronged by the establishment could come off as too strident to be believed, or so treacly as to ruin the message. With Washington, such material is in the hands of a once-in-a-generation professional, so audiences feel assured when they bear witness.

While Washington was denied a best-actor Academy Award for “The Hurricane,” he finally scored in that category with “Training Day,” playing a corrupt detective who uses an inexperienced partner for his own wicked purposes. What could have been an exploitative turn instead became a riveting and powerful performance, as Washington plumbed the depths of the reverse side of law and order.

He can take just about anything and make it better, because he applies the same tools and instincts to every role, no matter how important the project is perceived to be. “The Manchurian Candidate” sparkles because Washington has embodied Biko, Trip, Malcolm and Hurricane, et al., and has brought a little bit of them all to Ben Marco. He is the better for it, as are the rest of us.

Taking care of Denzel Washington

'Man on Fire' star had more to focus on than acting

By Andy Culpepper


LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- An easy affability surrounds Denzel Washington, from the firmness of a handshake offered in greeting to the warmth of a follow-up smile. This is a man who likes what he does and who enjoys talking about it with a reporter.

Washington's amiable self-assured demeanor at a recent publicity gathering stands in stark contrast to the man he plays in his latest film, director Tony Scott's fast-paced, often violent drama, "Man On Fire," which debuted at the top of the weekend box office.

His character John Creasy is a down-on-his-luck, burned-out former government operative who takes a job in crime-plagued Mexico City as the bodyguard of a wealthy couple's only daughter, played by Dakota Fanning.

Creasy and a schoolgirl do not make for an easy fit. The one-time Marine wavers between suicide and a bottle. Attempts at friendship by his 9-year-old charge are initially brushed aside. Eventually, the girl breaks through his tough exterior, and he discovers, to his surprise, a paternal nature -- an ability to feel something for the first time in a long time.

"It's a complicated film," says the star. "He's a lost soul. I think he's a very spiritual man who's reaching for help, you know, but he reads a verse of the Bible one day and then sips off the cup the next day."

"He's looking for a balm in Gilead, and he finds it in this 9-year-old girl. Who would have thunk, you know? Sometimes your blessings come in small packages

Handling violence

Some critics -- including CNN's Paul Clinton -- are suggesting "Man On Fire" is two films in one: the first is a character study of a tortured man, while the second is a story about retribution and revenge.

That the second half of the film is violent is undeniable -- so much so, at least one critic has questioned whether an R rating is a strong enough warning for the bloodshed in "Man On Fire."

One scene in particular stands out. Creasy has taped a kidnapping conspirator's hands to a steering wheel with the unfortunate fellow's fingers sticking up within easy reach of a knife. For each unanswered question Creasy poses to his prey, Creasy cuts off a finger. It's grisly business, and the camera captures all of it.

"I was amazed," says Washington. "It was more violent in the earlier cut."

"The women in the test screening -- that was one of their favorite scenes," he continues. "I don't know if it's a mother's instinct or protective instinct or whatever the word is for it. They wanted more. I was like 'wow.' The men seemed to be more squeamish about that scene than the women. That was interesting."

Washington and the cast and crew had more than on-screen violence to worry about. There was the constant threat of trouble off screen, not unlike what is depicted in the script.

Director Scott toyed with several locations -- including Italy and Brazil -- but in the end, it was Mexico City which won out, partly because of the reality the setting lent the story. Mexico has struggled with kidnappings in recent years, some of them high-profile abductions of the wealthy.

Stringent security precautions became part and parcel of the "Man On Fire" shooting schedule.

"Yeah, we all had bodyguards," actress Radha Mitchell remembers. "When I first got there, I was like, 'Why? Why do we have all these bodyguards?' It seemed odd. I mean, that's kind of what the movie's about."

Surrounded by security

It wasn't long before she understood the reasons for what seemed like extreme safety measures.

"I went out of town one weekend," Mitchell adds. "And when I can back, my driver -- his car had been stolen, and he had been held at gunpoint.

"Then I found out that Tony had been held at gunpoint while he was location scouting. And that one of the accountants had been held at gunpoint, and she wouldn't give up her watch. She held on to it," she recalls. "It was very real."

Consequently, Washington, the film's above-the-title star, had more than typical star treatment.

"Armored vehicle, four guys in the car behind me, two guys in the car with me, and I think one or two usually ahead of me," Washington says of his travel detail. "There were usually about six to eight guys with me all the time."

"I got used to the car swinging in front. It was really good, because it was all part of the movie for me, you know."

If Washington was forced into Method acting by the experience, he insists his constant companions didn't keep him from enjoying himself when he wasn't working.

"I never felt in danger," he maintains. "I did sneak out and leave them, more than they knew."

And then he smiles. "Or maybe they knew -- maybe they were following me all along."

Check out Denzel's interview in the February 25, 2002 issue of Newsweek Magazine. Just click on the pics to read the interview.

Additional information about Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington@Internet Movie Database
The Denzel Washington Page
Denzel Washington@The Movie
Oscar Gold: The Denzel Washington Fanlisting
The Denzel Washington Web Page
Film Monthly Interview
Denzel X
Denzel Washington@Wikipedia