Black Star News Interview with Kam Williams
Denzel Washington has exhibited an impressive range over the years, playing public figures as diverse as Black Muslim leader Malcolm X, unfairly imprisoned boxer Hurricane Carter, South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, and trailblazing high school football coach Herman Boone.
The handsome thespian landed his Oscars for his extraordinary portrayals of an embittered runaway slave in Glory and of an out of control cop in
Training Day. In 2002, he added directing to his resume' when he made the critically-acclaimed Antwone Fisher. And he's continued to meet the duties of an acting career which has seen the release of three movies in the last year, Out of Time, Man on Fire, and now, a remake of The Manchurian Candidate.
Despite being chosen as one of People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People and ascending to the top rung of the showbiz ladder, Denzel has remained a reserved family man committed to his wife, Pauletta, and their four children, which might help explain why he's won 14 NAACP Image Awards. Here, he talks about his latest flick, where he handles a role originated by another Academy-Award-winner, "Old Blue Eyesâ€? Frank Sinatra.
KW: Did already being such a celebrity who's always in the public eye make it easier to play a paranoid character in The Manchurian Candidate?
DW: "I don't how you play paranoid. I don't know what that really means. But, yeah, you have a better understanding of what it is to be watched, or even to think you're being watched, because you don't know when you're being watched. That's one of the weird things about celebrity. You don't know who's watching. It's so strange, and my least favorite part of acting, celebrity."
KW: Have you found a comfort level with being so famous?
DW: "If you pray for rain, then you have to deal with the mud, too. That's a part of it. So, it's too late now."
KW: Does always being followed by the paparazzi and recognized by fans hamper you?
DW: "It's a struggle to do normal things, because it's not a normal situation, but I just do it anyway, I don't care."
KW: After you signed on to do this picture, were you concerned about who else would be in the cast?
DW: "I don't even remember who I might have thought of. I always say this, 'The time to worry about flying is when you're on the ground.' Not when you're up in the air. That's too late. No point in worrying about it then. So, if you don't trust the pilot, don't go. Jonathan's [director Jonathan Demme] the pilot. I trusted the pilot and got on the plane."
KW: But I heard that when he wanted you to emote more on the set that you told him to wait till he saw what your performance looked like on screen
DW: "Right. It's 50 by 75 feet up there. There are things he may not see in that little box. In the old days, when a director used to stand by the camera and watch the action, you could actually see what's going on. Now, you sit 50 feet away and look at a little box. So, sometimes, I say, 'Trust me, trust the passenger.'" [laughs]
KW: Why do you think you're so attracted to military roles?
DW: "I'm not. I guess there are more soldier and cop films made. Do the research. War is the most extreme circumstance and makes for heightened drama. Maybe that has something to do with it. I didn't think of this as an army movie, but as a film about brainwashing."
KW: What do you see as the message of The Manchurian Candidate?
DW: "To make up your own mind. Don't be brainwashed. I heard Jonathan describe it as something of a cautionary tale. The point is to make people think a little bit."
KW: Do you expect any negative fallout because of the statement this movie seems to be making about corporations?
DW: "Well, let's hope that they're that foolish. Cause, if nothing else, this year has taught us that when people protest and are upset with a movie, it becomes a big hit. So, let's get as many protests as we can going. They hated The Passion of the Christ, but it worked out pretty well at the box office."
KW: What did coming back to your Mount Vernon roots to accept that award from the Boys' and Girls' Club mean to you?
DW: "My mother used to tell me, 'Man gives the award, God gives the reward.' Awards are fine, but the reason we were there was to raise money for the club. I don't need another plaque. I'm glad that they gave me one. That was nice. But the point was to raise money. $600,000 went to the club I grew up in. We've now raised close to $2 million. We're rebuilding the club. That's why I agreed to accept the award, as an excuse to raise money for the club."
KW: How did you, as a kid from humble roots, manage to persevere and keep believing that you could achieve your dream, despite the odds against you?
DW: "The 'F' word."
KW: What's that?
DW: "Faith. See ya' later."