Starring Denzel Washington - 1/21
Denzel Washington has sustained an acting career of 40-plus years in which he has emerged as one of Hollywood's most commanding and dependable leading men. His awards include two Oscars and six more nominations, three Golden Globe Awards and a Tony Award. In addition to garnering awards and critical praise, he is in that rare group of stars whose movies almost always create big box-office success. Since 2002, Washington has emerged as a successful producer and film director, and his 2016 film Fences was Oscar-nominated as Best Picture.
Denzel Hayes Washington Jr. was born December 28, 1954, in Mount Vernon, NY, the son of Denzel Sr., a Pentecostal minister and his wife, Lennis, a beautician. Denzel Jr. earned a B.A. in Drama and Journalism from Fordham University in 1977 and later studied acting at the university's Lincoln Center campus and the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.
After summer stock experience, Washington made his screen debut in the television movie Wilma (1977) and his theatrical-film debut in Carbon Copy (1981). He achieved TV stardom in NBC's St. Elsewhere (1982-88). Our tribute picks up his career as he gained prestige in theatrical films, where his career primarily focused.
A Soldier's Story (1984) is based on A Soldier's Play, the Pulitzer Prize-winning stage drama in which Washington originally appeared off-Broadway with the Negro Ensemble Company. In the film, directed by Norman Jewison, Washington repeats his role as Pvt. Peterson, a soldier involved in the murder of a black sergeant (Adolph Caesar) in Louisiana near the end of World War II.
Glory (1989), a Civil War drama directed by Edward Zwick, brought Washington an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor. He plays Private Silas Tripp, a member of one of the first military units of the Union Army to be composed entirely of African-American men. Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times that Washington was "clearly on his way to a major screen career."
Philadelphia (1993), one of the first Hollywood films to acknowledge the AIDS crisis, stars Oscar-winner Tom Hanks as a victim of the disease and Washington as his homophobic lawyer representing him in a lawsuit. Jonathan Demme directed this moving drama.
Devil in a Blue Dress (1995) is a film noir directed by Carl Franklin and set in 1948 Los Angeles. Washington stars as "Easy" Rawlins, a WWII veteran who becomes a private eye and finds himself involved in a tangled web of crooked cops and politicians, brutal hoodlums and murder when a woman makes her way into his life.
Washington's other Oscar came in the Best Actor category for Training Day (2001), a police drama in which he plays an L.A.P.D. detective with questionable means of upholding the law. Antoine Fuqua directed, and Ethan Hawke costars as the rookie cop who faces ethical questions in his association with Washington's character.
Washington was also Oscar-nominated as Best Supporting Actor for Cry Freedom (1987); and as Best Actor for Malcolm X (1993), The Hurricane (1999), Flight (2012), Fences (2016) and most recently Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017).
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