INT: Denzel Washington
think Denzel Washington takes charge in movies? Watch him handle a
room full of rowdy journalists. In the basement of the Century Plaza
Hyatt hotel, we awaited the entrance of the worlds sexiest Oscar
winner. The normally serious actor entered with an air of class and
good spirit. Wearing a sharp, black suit,
Youre still a sex symbol at 52. How do you get fit to remain a sex symbol for all ages?
Getting fit is a life style. Being a sex symbol for all ages, I don't know anything about that. But turning 50 made me realize, as I have said before, that this is not the dress rehearsal. So I was already sort of in that mind set before that, but it really hit home to enjoy every day, to try and lead and live a good life, a healthy life, and keep things simple. The sex symbol and all that stuff, you guys write about that. I don't think about that. I don't even know what that means.
What about your chemistry with Paula Patton?
What about it?
Isnt that what makes the movie work?
You know, 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. But she's a wonderful person. A lot of energy! But she's a lovely girl, shes a sweetheart, and he was right. She has this quality that you want to care about. You want to take care of her. So what was the question? The chemistry.
Do you know thatll be there when you meet her?
No you don't. I mean, you know if you like the person. You don't know how it's all going to work together. No, to answer your question, you don't know. You know, when it really hit home was, and we didn't get to shoot it until the last month when we came back to L.A., which was when we shot all the laboratory stuff. So the love story really evolves or develops with me looking at her on screen, seeing her in her private life. So we actually shot all the scenes when I'm actually with her in New Orleans, and then I got to see why Im supposed to be feeling the way I feel in the scenes we shot in New Orleans when we were in L.A. but the camera sure likes her, that's for sure.
Does it revitalize your craft to work with a fresh faced newcomer?
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.
Have you ever had a déjà vu?
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, and 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, and it backs up, and it's Eddie Murphy. And I just had a feeling somebody was [coming], 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. They said she stops the movie, and they applaud, as was the case for those of you, like myself, who saw Jennifer Holiday. It was an amazing moment in the theatre.
Youve worked with both Scott brothers. Compare and contrast.
Yeah. Third time with Tony, third time with Jerry as well. Needless to say, we've had tremendous success. I like working with Tony. I hope to do more movies with him. I must be the first person in the business to work with Tony Scott and Ridley Scott in the same year. Obviously Tony and Jerry know what they're doing. When they call me and say, hey we've got this idea and this is what we want to do, then I listen.
So, comparing the Scott brothers?
I don't know. Tony likes to draw. He's an artist, so he draws a lot of storyboards and all that stuff. Maybe Ridley does too but I don't see them. It feels like he's more seeing what happens on the moment and adjusting, but I don't know what type of preparation [he does]. I know Tony more because I've done three films with him. As it will all turn out, we'll see. Obviously Ridley knows what he's doing. He's made some good pictures. Its good working with him.
Do you still have the pressure or the same excitement doing a movie?
Well, thats what I was saying earlier about working with Paula, it reminded me. Pressure, I dont know if Ive ever felt pressure, I felt pressure when I played Malcolm X.
Because of expectations?
Pressure because of death threats. Thats real pressure, Cry Freedom as well, pressure from people saying they wanted to kill you. I guess theres some pressure, the economic, the amount of money youre spending on a film. But theres relief I guess when you look at a film, Monday I sat down with my guys and we watched Déjà Vu, and I was like, Whoa, thats a good picture. I enjoyed it. I think that affects the decisions I make about who I work with. Ive had great success with Tony, so when Tony calls Im like, hey, I like working with Tony, he makes good pictures. Weve had great success together.
What does the sexiest man alive have to do to train to be an ATF agent for a movie?
Sexy training. That could be like a gym, you could start sexy gyms or something like that, right? You cannot eat in New Orleans, thats one thing. Man, theres no such thing as health food. They do have a good Whole Foods there though. But I remember going to one place and I said, Can you make me a clean piece of fish, and he said, Oh, were going to wash the fish for you. As they say, just live better, just live better. You know, just watching what you eat and going to the gym.
How about actual ATF training?
Again, Tony like myself likes research. He always tracks down real guys. We did it with Man on Fire, we did it with Crimson Tide and we did it with Déjà Vu. Jerry was an ATF guy who was instrumental in figuring out the Oklahoma City bombing, we used his methods and applied it directly to this film. They found small pieces of plastic in the destruction of the Federal building, they identified it, tracked it, found out it came from barrels, found out where they were made, found out where they were purchased and worked their way back, they already had McVeigh at that time, but they were able to connect him to those things. We took that directly and applied it to our story. When he would get very tired working twenty, thirty, hours at a time, he said, If you brush your teeth its like getting an hours sleep. I put that in the movie, I brushed my teeth in the scene, so I like as Tony likes, finding real people.
Speaking of biopics, theres a rising feeling about a movie about the late, great Marvin Gaye. Can you see yourself involved with that?
Its been around a long time, they talked to me about it for a long time. Im too old now I think. I just dont see it. Id like to see it made, I dont know if I want to do it. Thats a tricky one, you know, Marvin is special to a lot of people.
Could you play his father?
Thanks, thanks a lot man. Yeah, Ill be the sexy father, thats it. Ill be the sexy father. No, I mean, but I dont know, its been around, I dont know whats happening to be honest with you.
Are you a strongly serious person?
Theres a clown in there, theres a clown in me thats waiting to get out. Do I feel as serious as that character do you mean?
As an individual do you feel serious?
Im what you see. Most people have said to me, Why dont you do more comedies? Youre real funny, people dont see that side of you. I think its eking out in films more and more, especially in Inside Man, I improvised a lot, and there were some funny lines that came out that werent written, like, I bet you can get a cab though, or something like that. I just said that, the guy kept saying, I cant do this, I cant do that. I said, I bet you can get a cab though, and people fell out when we were shootin it, so I was like, Oh, okay.
Are you directing any time soon?
In March, yeah, a film called The Debaters about a school in 1935. Wiley College had four hundred students, and they beat everybody in the country in debating, they were just a great little school in a nowhere little town in Texas, they had a teacher and a good debating coach by the name of Mel Tolson, whos considered one of the great African American poets of our time. They had a young 14 year-old freshman on the team by the name of James Farmer who went on to start the Congress on Racial Equality and was instrumental in the civil rights movement, as instrumental as anyone else. Its an interesting story about a 14 year-old who falls in love with a 20 year old girl who doesnt fall in love with him, and about a little team that goes up against the big giant in the country.
Why do you like directing?
I like the collaboration, I like seeing people do well. Im loving seeing where Derek Luke is right now, and having something to do with that. I like seeing people do well, so I really, God willing, I plan to direct the rest of my days.
Will you star in the movie as well?
You talked about Paula. What was it like working with Jim Caviezel?
Hes intense, he is intense. Hes obviously very good and I was kind of surprised like, whoa okay, hes investing in the dark side. He was willing to go the whole way, hes a very spiritual man and a very intense individual, and very good. And its that same intensity that can be applied to the good side of things or his character thinks hes right, you know, even for a spiritual or religious reasons hes a zealot, hes a nut. The character, the character.
Is there an opportunity for humor in American Gangster?
That wacky dope dealer. That nutty dope dealer. I dont know, I dont know, well see.
Whats the craziest thing youve done for love?
I dont know. I dont know, the craziest thing? I dont know, thats a good question but I dont have an answer. You got me, you stumped me. Stumped the sexy man.
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