Denzel Hayes Washington, Jr. is an American actor, film director, and film producer. He has received much critical acclaim for his work in film since the 1990s, including for his portrayals of real-life figures such as Steve Biko, Malcolm X, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, Melvin B. Tolson, Frank Lucas, and Herman Boone. Washington is a featured actor in the films produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and was a frequent collaborator of the late director Tony Scott. Washington has received two Golden Globe awards and a Tony Award, and two Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor for Glory and Best Actor for Training Day.
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Denzel in his own words. Ask me anything. Victoria's helping me out.
update: well, enjoy life, work hard, understand that between your GOALS, and your achievements, in order to ACHIEVE your goals, you must apply discipline, and consistency. In order to achieve your goals, you must apply discipline and consistency - and never confuse movement with progress. Because you can run in place and not get anywhere. Peace.
Your performance in Remember The Titans continues to inspire and motivate me to this day, Denzel. What inspires and motivates you in life?
Well, that film was really fun for me, because I've been a coach most of my life. I grew up in the Boys & Girls club, and I started coaching when I was as young as 12 - the coach quit, so they made me the coach at 12, and the kids were like 10, but I guess i had that ability... I really get a lot of pleasure out of seeing people do well. So that role, for me, was a lot of fun- although he was a tough guy. But I was living out one of my coaching fantasies, I guess! We all think, when we watch TV, that we could do a better job than whoever's on TV...
What film or tv role were you offered, turned down and then thought "damn, that would have been great!"?
Well, I turned down the movie SEVEN - but then when I saw it, I thought "Man, I made a mistake!" But it still had Brad Pitt!
You portrayed an alcoholic perfectly in the movie "Flight". What did you do to prepare for that role to bring such realism to a person suffering from that disease?
Edit: Thank you kind stranger for the gold. My first ever.
Well, you know, I think it's something that affects us all, you know? If not first person, then someone in the family. But it was written by a guy who's been, I guess, sober for 15, 20 years, and directed by someone who's been sober for 20 years, so it was written very specifically, and really good scripts are hard to come by. Like SEVEN! So when I read it, I just knew, wow, this one is good. It's strong, but it's also very good. And I had to be a part of it.
'2 Guns' with Mark Walberg was a really funny movie. Have you thought about venturing into more comedic roles?
I definitely have, you know? And that's something I'm always on the lookout for. Yes, absolutely want to do more. I actually have a script for a remake of UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT that Will Smith wants to put together, that's been written and that we're talking about. You can hit Will up and ask him what he's waiting for.
What can I do, Denzel, to get a perfect smile as yours?
It comes from the inside. Think good thoughts, be positive. I'll send you the number of my dentist...but think good thoughts. It starts in your heart.
Denzel you have been married to the same woman for over thirty years and have managed to work in Hollywood for just as long. What do you attribute your success in being able to keep such a long lasting relationship in show business where divorce is a dime a dozen?
Well, you know, I don't know if it's show business that has a monopoly on divorce, it's just that you hear about it. I don't know what statistics are, or I don't know if people in show business have a higher rate of divorce, but I just think that you have to work at it. Not give up on each other. It's a commitment. It's not all the honeymoon, it doesn't last forever, so you work at it. And hopefully you're good friends first, that might help! Sometimes people get married for the right reasons. But I don't know that it's any higher in Hollywood... not necessarily. It's talked about, it's news, and "celebrities" make the news, so you hear about it more. I wonder if they ever did a comparison by profession, you know, bankers, accountants, actors, doctors, I wonder where show business would land, I don't think it would be at the top... marriage counselors! haha! They probably know better, right?
How the hell do you still look half your age?
Good genes. My mother is... maybe I shouldn't say her age. I come from a good gene pool. When I was young-young, it took a long time for me to be able to get into clubs, and my oldest daughter, she's mid-twenties now, she looks twelve or thirteen, so I think it's just genetics. And exercise, and eating right, but you know - Father Time is undefeated.
Would you be interested in being the next James Bond?
The next James Bond? They better hurry up! Yes I would! Who's doing James Bond now..Daniel Craig! Did they shoot another one? Everybody should tweet Denzel is James Bond! Send it to the studio! We start the Denzel is Bond campaign today!
James Washington. Denzel Bond!
Have you ever been approached to do an action film alongside Liam Neeson? I feel like that would be awesome to watch.
Actually, that could be interesting.
I won't say yes but that could happen one day.
Hey Mr. Denzel! I'm a big fan of your movie "The Book of Eli", and I'm curious. How long did it take to learn the choreography for the fight scenes? And how difficult is it to actually perform those moves? I imagine there'd be a couple of takes!
There were a lot of takes. We worked on those fight scenes for a month. They were well-choreographed, and in fact, there's one scene where i think I fight 15 different guys at once - we actually worked it so I could fight 15 guys at one time! I did ninety percent, I don't know what percent, my own stunts, the stuntmen didn't have to do as much, but that was mostly me.
A lot of the marketing for The Equalizer has focused around the new Eminem song, "Guts Over Fear". Are you and Eminem fan yourself and if so, what is your favorite song of his?
Eminem, yes, and I like Nas, and Jay-Z. Eminem and NAS are real wordsmiths. So yes, I'm DEFINITELY an Eminem fan. Where's he been? Where you been Eminem?
A lot of your roles seem to be a man who is always willing to do what it takes; someone who goes the extra yard when nobody else will, someone who will do the wrong thing for the greater good, etc. do you find that you emulate this persona, or is it just a character you are good at playing?
Well, I'd like to think that I, you know, try to do the right thing. I don't emulate the character that I'm playing, this is life, I don't say "Oh, what would Robert McCall do" -but there's a part of me in every role i play. And there's things you learn, not just from shooting the movie, but also from the experience with the people you shoot the movie with. There are lessons learned from shooting movies, but I couldn't give you a specific example.
What are some hobbies of yours that people might not expect?
Well, I think I talk about boxing, I like to box. I don't have a lot of hobbies... My sports days are over, but I still box. And I've been fortunate to live through my kids through athletics, I had a son who played in the NFL, he's an actor now, he's starring in a new series for HBO called "Ballers" about football players. He co-stars with The Rock! So Look for him on HBO! I can hear him now, Dad, don't say that... but I'm a proud poppa, of all my children.
Mr. Washington! You are a very funny and highly charismatic man.
Why have you never hosted Saturday Night Live?
That's a good question! I need to do that!
It's not too late! They're still on right? They've been on like 30 years, right?
Call NBC and tell them Denzel needs to host!
How did the recent passing of Rubin "Hurricane" Carter affect you? Loved your portrayal of him in The Hurricane!
Rubin was a great friend, and his partner (who helped him in the last years of his life, as I did, as well) brought me a great gift. I was doing a play on Broadway, and he brought me Rubin's midway championship belt that he won in 1963. So that's a prized possession of mine that I have in my house. He was a dear, dear person.
Mr. Washington, when filming for 'Crimson Tide', did you get to experience life on a real nuclear submarine?
Yes I did! I had the opportunity to go out on a sub, a real sub, and it's a lot smaller than you think. That's the great thing about my job, I get to be a boxer one day, a submarine captain the next, or in The Equalizer, somebody who takes things into their own hands.
denzel what is it like being the greatest actor ever?
I'll let you know when I find out! But thank you.
What is one fact about you that would surprise most people?
What was it like being People's Sexiest Man Alive? Did it suck when you had to hand over the crown to Clooney?
Hmmm. I don't know? Trying to think of something... I do love classical music. Hopefully that wouldn't surprise people! I'm a closet comedian. Hahaha! I have a quick wit, I don't know if I could do jokes, but i'm a wise guy (not in the Italian sense).
Embarrassing. I mean, come on... alive? Embarrassing. I was like, come on now. And then when they pick the next person, are you like, second now? Is it just one year, and then you're what - it's like a Used Car, used Sexiest Man Alive dealership? The Almost Sexiest Man alive dealership? Who's the sexiest man now, Adam Levine? He sits next to me at the Laker Games. He's on the Voice? Who's this year's? It's November when they announce it... Can't you be the sexiest man for 2 years running? ALIVE... that's a mouthful... sexiest man alive. I didn't give the title to Clooney, they take it from you! I'm NEVER going to relinquish the title. I'm STILL the Sexiest Man Alive.
Make sure you write: I'm joking.
I'm a big fan of Fallen. Would you consider starring in more horror movies? Are you a fan of horror movies? Can you tell us your favourites?
Yeah, I would! I mean, I like them. Yes. Yes I would. Nobody's asked me!
But I definitely would. When I was a kid, THE EXORCIST scared the bejeezus out of me. That was a crazy movie. Yeah, I'd love to do a horror movie. And why does the girl always fall down in front of the monster? She always trips and falls JUST in time for the monster to get her. What's up with that? Maybe that's just the old movies. Maybe she doesn't fall down as much any more.
What song would you sing for karaoke?
It would have to be some kind of a... my son used to sing I BELIEVE I CAN FLY, when he was little, and he couldn't say the words, and he would say "I BEWEEV I CAN FAWY." You know? All we had to do was start the song, and he would just start singing - "I Beweev I can touch the sky!"
What movie genres do you like as a movie fan? Is there any genre you would like to explore but didn't have the opportunity yet?
You know what? I'm on a Stanley Kubrick trip right now. I've just been watchin' all of his films. I watched FULL METAL JACKET the other day, CLOCKWORK ORANGE, I've always been a fan of Scorsese, but I've sort of been on a Kubrick trip of late. I don't know why. In the next couple of years, I think I mentioned I'm going to direct a film, so I've started to put that hat on and watch how other filmmakers put together their movies. Kubrick was a genius. And simple. I was amazed at how simple his shot selection was. He knew exactly where to put the camera in the right place, it didn't feel like it's been filmed, it feels like reality.
Hi Denzel, will you tell us some good story from your cooperation with Tony Scott?
Tony was the best. You know? Tony would, he would curse one second, and cry the next. He wore his heart outside of his shirt. You knew how he felt. He was a very passionate and great filmmaker. Totally unafraid. And I really miss him. I just put a picture up, of him, in my room, in my study in my house, and I actually had to cover it up because it was too difficult to look at him. It's almost like he was looking at the camera, like he was looking at me, and I just really miss him.
If anybody out there is struggling - please seek help. Don't take your own life in your hands. or if you know someone whom you think is struggling, then don't let it be said that you didn't do all you could do to help them.
How does it feel knowing that you're the only person to be defeated by a cat in a movie?
Edit: The movie in question is "Fallen", by the way.
Dog or cat man?
Also, congrats on never having made a bad film. Seriously, if you're in it then it's great. Even something like Déjà Vu which could easily have been a disaster was amazing.
Keep on being great Mr Washington.
Cats, man, they're too independent. They piss me off. they play when they want, and then they turn their back on you. Dogs, you throw the ball, and they bring it back, tongue hanging out, tail wagging. Cats are like "Not right now, too busy." Definitely a dog man.
Except when it comes to cleaning up after them! Cats win that!
Do you get to keep souvenirs from the movies you make? Can you tell us something you keep?
I kept some swords from Book of Eli, sometimes I keep the costumes - I kept my glasses and hat from MALCOLM X. I did a play on Broadway called Fences, where i played an old baseball player, and i kept the bat. Trying to think of what else I got... those are things I can think off the top of my head. I have the tailor-made suits I wore in Training Day, I have those and the leather jacket. I go home with something.
Hi Denzel! Would you ever consider playing a Marvel or DC superhero? I personally think you'd be great as the Green Lantern or Luke Cage.
Didn't they do the Green Lantern? With Ryan Reynolds! Too late! Green Lantern Returns? Isn't there a comic book, the Black Panther or something?
Mr. Denzel, in the film "The Preachers Wife" you performed a dance move called "the Popeye." How much work and preparation was put into performing that dance move?
HA! I just did it in instinctively! I didn't prepare for it at all! I was trying to dance as bad as I could. You must be an older person, if you knew that was The Popeye. Yeahhhh, I haven't heard that, man that is going back. But that's what they called that dance!
How old are you?
Favorite part of filming Training Day?
I enjoyed, actually - there's a big speech I make at the end, where everybody's walking out on me - King John ain't got nothing on me speech. That section was interesting. And doing the research, because i got to spend a lot of time with Crips and Bloods, and kind of get under the surface and find out what they're about and all that kind of stuff.
How would you describe your experience with the late Richard Attenborough while working on Cry Freedom?
Oh, it was great. He was just such a sweet, nice man. A gentle person. And really gave me a lot of confidence at a young age. And that was my first Academy Award nomination, was Cry Freedom. Just a wonderful human being as well as filmmaker.
Thanks for doing this AMA, I'm a huge fan! One of my favorite films of yours is Ricochet from the early 90's. My question is what was it like working with John Lithgow and do you like his more serious or comedic roles?
Well, he's a great actor, and one of the few actors that can do serious drama, and can do comedy. And it was a joy and a pleasure to work with him. That was many moons ago. I would love to work with him again. I think he's on Broadway again? A great actor. And a nice man.
Do you sing? It seems like you should sing. Try "Tiiiiiiiime is on my siiiide. Yes it is!"
One has to recognize one's limitations.
In my mind, I'm a great singer. For about 3 seconds.
Training Day has always been my favorite movie of all time.
What's your ideal breakfast?
oOh-wee. I like a good omelet. When I feel like being a slob, I love french toast. But I like a great omelet. And I like a simple breakfast, a little diner, with bacon and eggs and hash browns, some real good greasy funky hash browns, a little OJ, a cup of coffee, I'm good.
Denzel, I am about to get married. What is the best advice you have for marriage?
Oh - if you're a guy - two phrases. One is "yes, dear" and the other is "honey, you're right." Be patient. Be good friends first. And stick together. You gotta work at it. I've been married 31 years. It's not all a honeymoon, it's not all flowers and roses, but if you're friends and partners and committed, you'll be okay. And everybody's got advice for you - don't listen.
Hi Mr. Washington. Big fan of yours.
Have you ever wondered why your name is Denzel?
Because my father's name is Denzel!
Actually, it's pronounced Denzel, and I had to pronounce it Den-ZELL so that I could tell I was being called - so if she was calling for "Denzel" my dad would show up, and if she was calling for "Den-ZELL," then I would respond. Denzel Hayes Washington Junior. So I'm Denzel. But I'm a junior.
What famous movie lines do you use in real life? IE "may the force be with you."
Ahaha! I don't know! I don't know that I use any - not regularly. I'll be back. Was it Butch Cassidy where they kept saying Who are those guys? I'm trying to think if there's anything I say from my own movies...