Nominee Profile: Denzel Washington (Flight – 2013)
Denzel, is one of those actors whose last name is almost an afterthought in Hollywood. It’s Washington, of course, but is that really even worth mentioning? He’s known as Denzel, period. The one and only. As an actor he has been a staple for over 35 years (he played a young doctor in the TV series St. Elsewhere), then a film star since 1988, when he won a Golden Globe and his first Oscar as best supporting actor for the Civil War-themed movie Glory. In 2001 he won a best actor Oscar for the police drama Training Day, the first black actor to receive such an honor since Sidney Poitier decades earlier.
He could have easily won another Golden Globe and Oscar in 2012 for Flight (in the role of an alcoholic airline pilot), if it hadn’t been for Daniel Day-Lewis’ Lincoln. Denzel, born in 1954 in Mount Vernon, New York, was not disappointed. He’s too experienced and successful for regrets: “I think I got rid of vanity,” he said. “The time for self-celebration
is over. My character in Flight stripped off of any residual hint of glory and vanity. I feel more humble year after year. And I think the feeling of having gone beyond all that is
very liberating.” Denzel was seen in 2013 in the action-noir Two Guns, with Mark Wahlberg, and will be seen in 2014 in the thriller The Equalizer. He could do everything he wants to, in the movies. And yet he chooses his roles very carefully, such as Malcolm X (one of his most famous portrayals), Philadelphia, The Hurricane, Man on Fire, American Gangster. At the same time he’s one of those actors who commit fully to a project, any project, even action-thrillers such as Pelham 123 or Safe House.
Notoriously smart and reserved, Denzel has been married since 1983 with his college sweetheart Pauletta, with whom he had four children. He’s a family man and loving father no less than a movie star and an industry powerhouse. He doesn’t mingle with the Hollywood “jet set”, unless it’s for business obligations, and yet he’s widely respected and carefully heard, though he never raises his voice. His suaveness is as legendary as his acting skills. He’s also busy as a producer and tried his hand at directing with the well-received coming of age drama Antwone Fisher (2002), in which he also plays the subtle role of
Denzel keeps busy with 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. At almost 60, in 2014, he nevertheless keeps working tirelessly in the movies. The actor has at times been criticized by the black community for not taking a more public stance in issues of race in America. “I’m a reserved person and keep certain things just for myself,” he responds. “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. I’m fond of President Obama and I’m very proud of being part of these epochal changes in our society. That’s all I’m going to say. And now… back to work, got lots of bills to pay!”