Denzel Washington turns 65
No sign of retirement: At 65, Denzel Washington has two new films in the pipeline. With two Oscar trophies, he is Hollywood’s most decorated black actor. But he also remains true to his first love, the theater.
Oscar winner Denzel Washington will probably not toast his new year with a good glass of wine. “When I turned 60, I drank my last glass of wine, nothing since,” the actor revealed to the US trade journal last June Hollywood Reporter. He said to himself that he just didn’t want to waste any more days with a hangover. The Hollywood star will be 65 years old this Saturday.
The big anniversary five years ago was probably a wake-up call. Eat less fat, lead a simpler life, pay attention to mind, body and soul, that’s his motto, says Washington. And that is obviously paying off. You can’t tell the age. He’s constantly in front of the camera, even in roles that demand a lot from him physically.
He has just shot the cop thriller “The Little Things” with his much younger colleague Rami Malek. You play detectives who are on the heels of a serial killer. In 2020 a remake of the Shakespeare classic “Macbeth” is due, with Washington in the lead role of the power-hungry, unscrupulous prince, directed by Joel Coen.
That shows the whole spectrum of Washington, whose secret love is still the theater. “That’s where I started,” says Washington of his beginnings as a drama student in the 1970s. At that time he saw films with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman, but apart from Sidney Poitier and a few comedians like Richard Pryor there were no black movie stars. He therefore only believed in a career in the theater.
Washington pocketed the most important US stage award, a Tony, in 2010 for his leading role in the family drama “Fences”. He appeared in the classic “A Raisin in the Sun” and last year he appeared in Eugene O’Neill’s play “The Iceman Cometh” on the New York Broadway stage.
Theater may be his heart, but Hollywood owes his fame to it. As a movie star, he is revered around the world, with dozens of awards as proof. He got his first Oscar nomination as a supporting actor in 1988 in the role of the South African freedom fighter Steve Biko in the drama “Scream for Freedom”. Two years later he held the supporting role Oscar in his hand – for his soldier role in the civil war drama “Glory”.
There were other nominations for best leading actor for a wide variety of roles – as civil rights activist “Malcolm X”, as the innocent jailed boxer Rubin Carter in “Hurricane”, as a drunk crash pilot in “Flight”, as a bitter family man in “Fences” and most recently in 2018 as an idealistic criminal defense attorney in “Roman J. Israel Esq.”. Another nomination as a producer in the category “Best Film” earned him the drama “Fences”, which he also directed.
Ironically, with an action thriller and his first villain role, the celebrated character actor won the leading role Oscar. Director Antoine Fuqua cast him on Training Day as a corrupt cop in the Los Angeles Drug Squad. When Washington accepted the trophy in 2002, he was only the second African American to receive the honor. In 1964 Sidney Poitier won the Oscar for his leading role in the comedy “Lilies on the Field”.
Washington admitted in 2014 in a dpa interview that action scenes are becoming more difficult. He was just introducing the thriller “The Equalizer”, in which an apparently staid hardware store employee becomes a killer. But it was fun to learn new fighting techniques, assured the hobby boxer. Last year he dealt again as Avenger under the direction of Antoine Fuqua in “Equalizer 2”. Right at the beginning he kills four brawny attackers in a train compartment with a teapot, bare fists and a knife in the twinkling of an eye.
His private life, which he successfully keeps under lock and key, seems comparatively undramatic. Washington has been married to his wife Pauletta for over 35 years. The couple have four children, all of whom followed their father into the film business as actors or producers. Best known is the eldest son John David Washington (35). In Spike Lee’s racism satire “BlacKkKlansman” (2018) he played the lead role of a black police officer who infiltrated a group of the Ku Klux Klan.
In 2018, the celebrity son was seen alongside Robert Redford in the crime comedy “The Old Man & the Gun”. At the age of 81, Redford had stated at the time that this was probably his last film appearance. Washington could empathize with the announced withdrawal from acting. “I’m going to retire at his age too,” he promised in the dpa interview last year. “Maybe my son will do my last movie, too,” said Washington. After this calculation, the two of them still have plenty of time for a joint project. (dpa)