- Golden Globe Awards
Nominee Profile 2022: Denzel Washington, “The Tragedy of Macbeth”
Multi-award-winning actor Denzel Washington’s roles have run the gamut in his 40-year career. Prior to his first Golden Globe win in 1989, for Best Supporting Actor for the Civil War-themed movie Glory, Washington had already established himself on the small screen as a young doctor in St. Elsewhere. More awards followed, notably, for his blistering performance in Training Day, in 2001, for which he won a Best Actor Oscar, making him the first Black actor to receive such an honor since Sidney Poitier decades earlier.
Other pivotal performances in movies include Cry Freedom, in 1987, Malcolm X, in 1992, in which he played the eponymous civil rights activist. He also starred in Philadelphia, in 1993, and Crimson Tide, in 1995. He won a Golden Globe for Best Actor, in 1999, for playing convicted boxer Rubin Carter in The Hurricane, and he followed up with a starring role in Man on Fire, in 2004, the same year he starred in The Manchurian Candidate. In 2007, Washington played drug kingpin Frank Lucas in American Gangster, and performed the lead in Fences, both on stage and in the film, in 2010. Two years later he starred as an alcoholic pilot in Flight, and in 2014 he appeared in the action thriller, The Equalizer, as well as its sequel, in 2018.
An unparalleled career, Washington has racked up nine Golden Globe nominations. In addition to his wins for Glory (1989) and The Hurricane (1999), he also received the Golden Globe Cecile B. deMille Award, in 2016.
In person, Washington is no-nonsense, straightforward, and doesn’t wax lyrical about the complexities of acting. “There is no such thing as film acting versus theater acting. Just tell the truth and the camera will catch it.”
When he’s not working, Washington keeps busy with his wife, college sweetheart and actress, Pauletta, to whom he has been married since 1983, and with whom he has raised four children. He’s actively involved in charity and educational work with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, as well as the Pentecostal Church (his father was a minister). “The Pentecostal Church is my second family,” he candidly admits. “I’m a religious man and a private man. I have political ideas, of course, but I’m not for fanning them or being openly vocal. A filmmaker like Spike Lee is deeply political in whatever he does, and I respect that. But I’m a different kind of public animal.”
No stranger to the work of the Bard of Avon, Washington has garnered rave reviews for his latest performance in the titular role in The Tragedy of Macbeth. In fact, his relationship with Shakespeare has come full circle. He began taking acting classes, in 1977, at New York’s Lincoln Center campus playing Othello. Five decades later, he returns to the Lincoln Center to present The Tragedy of Macbeth to the New York Film Festival, in which he stars opposite Frances McDormand, as Lady Macbeth, directed by Joel Coen.
While many actors find Macbeth too daunting a prospect to take on, Washington jumped at the opportunity. “This has been a fascinating journey for me. I played Othello a few thousand feet from this very stage and I’m honored and fortunate to be here.”
His first professional Shakespeare performance was in Coriolanus, in a Shakespeare in the Park production in 1979, and he also played the titular role of The Tragedy of Richard III, on Broadway in 1990. He returned to the New York stage almost 15 years later to play Marcus Brutus in the 2005 Broadway revival of Julius Caesar. And on-screen, he appeared in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, in 1993.
“Shakespeare is where I started and it’s where I want to finish,” he said.