Denzel Washington

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Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington cropped.jpg
Washington in February 2000, at the Berlinale film festival.
BornDenzel Hayes Washington, Jr.
(1954-12-28) December 28, 1954 (age 59)
Mount Vernon, New York, U.S.
ResidenceBeverly Hills, California, U.S.
Alma materFordham University
OccupationActor, film director, film producer
Years active1974–present
ReligionPentecostalism (Church of God in Christ)[1]
Spouse(s)Pauletta Washington (m. 1983)
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Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington cropped.jpg
Washington in February 2000, at the Berlinale film festival.
BornDenzel Hayes Washington, Jr.
(1954-12-28) December 28, 1954 (age 59)
Mount Vernon, New York, U.S.
ResidenceBeverly Hills, California, U.S.
Alma materFordham University
OccupationActor, film director, film producer
Years active1974–present
ReligionPentecostalism (Church of God in Christ)[1]
Spouse(s)Pauletta Washington (m. 1983)
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Denzel Washington

Denzel Hayes Washington, Jr. (born December 28, 1954) is an American actor, film director, and film producer. He has received much critical acclaim for his work in film since the 1990s, including for his portrayals of real-life figures such as Steve Biko, Malcolm X, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, Melvin B. Tolson, Frank Lucas, and Herman Boone. Washington is a featured actor in the films produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and was a frequent collaborator of the late director Tony Scott.

Washington has received two Golden Globe awards and a Tony Award,[2] and two Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor for Glory (1989) and Best Actor for Training Day (2001).[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Washington was born in Mount Vernon, near New York City. His father, Reverend Denzel Hayes Washington, Sr., a native of Buckingham County, Virginia, served as an ordained Pentecostal minister, and also worked for the Water Department and at a local department store, S. Klein. His mother, Lennis "Lynne", was a beauty parlor owner and operator born in Georgia and partly raised in Harlem.[4][5][6]

Washington attended grammar school at Pennington-Grimes Elementary School in Mount Vernon, until 1968. When he was 14, his parents broke up, and his mother sent him to a private preparatory school, Oakland Military Academy, in New Windsor, New York. "That decision changed my life," Washington later said, "because I wouldn't have survived in the direction I was going. The guys I was hanging out with at the time, my running buddies, have now done maybe 40 years combined in the penitentiary. They were nice guys, but the streets got them."[7] After Oakland, Washington next attended Mainland High School, a public high school in Daytona Beach, Florida, from 1970 to 1971.[4] Washington was interested in attending Texas Tech University: "I grew up in the Boys Club in Mount Vernon, and we were the Red Raiders. So when I was in high school, I wanted to go to Texas Tech in Lubbock just because they were called the Red Raiders and their uniforms looked like ours."[8] Washington attended Texas College, and earned a B.A. in Drama and Journalism from Fordham University in 1977.[9] At Fordham he played collegiate basketball as a guard[10] under coach P. J. Carlesimo.[11] After a period of indecision on which major to study and dropping out of school for a semester, Washington worked as creative arts director at an overnight summer camp, Camp Sloane YMCA in Lakeville, Connecticut. He participated in a staff talent show for the campers and a colleague suggested he try acting.[12]

Returning to Fordham that fall with a renewed purpose and focus, he enrolled at the Lincoln Center campus to study acting and was given the title roles in both Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones and Shakespeare's Othello. Upon graduation he attended graduate school at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, where he stayed for one year before returning to New York to begin a professional acting career.[13]


Early work[edit]

Washington at the 62nd Academy Awards, at which he won Best Supporting Actor for the film Glory.

Washington spent the summer of 1976 in St. Mary's City, Maryland,[14] in summer stock theater performing Wings of the Morning,[15][16] the Maryland State play, which was written for him by incorporating an African-American character/narrator based loosely on the historical figure from early colonial Maryland, Mathias Da Sousa.[17] He also filmed a series of commercials in the Fruit of the Loom ensemble, as Grapes.[citation needed] Shortly after graduating from Fordham, Washington made his screen acting debut in the 1977 made-for-television film Wilma, and his first Hollywood appearance in the 1981 film Carbon Copy. Washington shared a 1982 Distinguished Ensemble Performance Obie Award for playing Private First Class Melvin Peterson in the Off-Broadway Negro Ensemble Company production A Soldier's Play which premiered November 20, 1981.[18]

A major career break came when he starred as Dr. Phillip Chandler in the television hospital drama St. Elsewhere which ran from 1982 to 1988 on NBC. He was one of only a few African-American actors to appear on the series for its entire six-year run. Washington also appeared in several television, motion picture, and stage roles such as the films A Soldier's Story (1984), Hard Lessons (1986) and Power (1986). In 1987 Washington starred as South African anti-apartheid political activist Steven Biko in Richard Attenborough's Cry Freedom for which he received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. In 1989 Washington won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for playing a defiant self-possessed ex-slave soldier in the film Glory. Also that year he appeared in the film The Mighty Quinn, and as the conflicted and disillusioned Reuben James, a British soldier who, despite a distinguished military career, returns to a civilian life where racism and inner city life leads to vigilantism and violence in For Queen and Country.


Washington's signature in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre

In 1991, Washington starred as Bleek Gilliam in the Spike Lee film Mo' Better Blues. In 1992, he starred as Demetrius Williams in the romantic drama Mississippi Masala. Washington was reunited with Lee to play one of his most critically acclaimed roles as the title character of 1992's Malcolm X. His performance as the black nationalist leader earned him another nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. The next year he played the lawyer of a gay man with AIDS in the 1993 film Philadelphia. During the early and mid-1990s, Washington starred in several successful thrillers, including The Pelican Brief and Crimson Tide, as well as in the comedy Much Ado About Nothing. In 1996, he played a US Army officer, despondent about a deadly mistake he made, investigates a female chopper commander's worthiness for the Medal of Honor in Courage Under Fire with Meg Ryan. Also in 1996, alongside Whitney Houston in the romantic drama The Preacher's Wife.[citation needed]

In 1998, Washington starred in Spike Lee's film He Got Game. Washington played a father serving a six-year prison term who is propositioned by the warden to a temporary parole on the terms that he must convince his top-ranked high-school basketball player son (Ray Allen) into signing with the governor's alma mater, Big State. The film also marked the third time that Spike Lee and Washington worked on a film together.[19]

In 1999, Washington starred in The Hurricane, a film about boxer Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter whose conviction for triple murder was overturned after he had spent almost 20 years in prison. A former reporter who was angry at seeing the film portray Carter as innocent despite the overturned conviction began a campaign to pressure Academy Award voters not to award the film Oscars.[20] Washington did receive a Golden Globe Award in 2000 and a Silver Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival for the role.

He also presented the Arthur Ashe ESPY Award to Loretta Claiborne for her courage and appeared as himself in the end of The Loretta Claiborne Story film.[citation needed]


In 2000, Washington appeared in the Disney film Remember the Titans which grossed over $100 million at the United States box office.[21]

When Washington won a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Dramatic Movie in 2000, as he noted: "No African-American has won best actor in the Golden Globes since Sidney Poitier, until I did".[22] He was the first Black actor to win the award in 36 years.[23]

He won an Academy Award for Best Actor in his next film, the 2001 cop thriller Training Day as Detective Alonzo Harris, a rogue and evil Los Angeles cop with questionable law-enforcement tactics. Washington was the second African-American performer to win an Academy Award for Best Actor, the first being Sidney Poitier who happened to receive an Honorary Academy Award the same night that Washington won. Washington holds the record (six so far) for most Oscar nominations and most wins (two so far) by an actor or actress of African descent.

After appearing in 2002's box office success, the health care-themed John Q., Washington directed his first film, a well-reviewed drama called Antwone Fisher, in which he also co-starred.

Between 2003 and 2004, Washington appeared in a series of thrillers that performed generally well at the box office, including Out of Time, Man on Fire, and The Manchurian Candidate.[24] In 2006, he starred in Inside Man, a Spike Lee-directed bank heist thriller co-starring Jodie Foster and Clive Owen, and Déjà Vu released in November 2006.

In 2006, Denzel worked alongside multi-talented Irish off-rock band The Script on their new project combining music and Hollywood. The hybrid of genres was critically acclaimed but didn't receive much mainstream attention due to a legal conflicts between the Script's record label and Denzel's studio commitments.

In 2007, he co-starred with Russell Crowe, for the second time after Virtuosity in 1995, in American Gangster. Washington directed and starred in the drama The Great Debaters with Forest Whitaker. Washington next appeared in the 2009 film The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, a remake of the 1974 thriller The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, directed by Tony Scott as New York City subway security chief Walter Garber opposite John Travolta.[25]

Return to theater[edit]

Washington after a performance of Julius Caesar in May 2005

In the summer of 1990, Washington appeared in the title role of the Public Theater's production of Shakespeare's Richard III. In 2005, he appeared onstage again in another Shakespeare play as Marcus Brutus in Julius Caesar on Broadway. The production's limited run was a consistent sell-out averaging over 100% attendance capacity nightly despite receiving mixed reviews.[26] In the spring of 2010, Washington played Troy Maxson, opposite Viola Davis, in the Broadway revival of August Wilson's Fences, for which he won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play on June 13, 2010.[27][28]

Washington is scheduled to play the leading role in A Raisin in the Sun in 2014.[29]


In 2010, Washington starred in The Book of Eli, a post-Apocalyptic drama set in the near future. Also in 2010, he starred as a veteran railroad engineer in the action film Unstoppable, about an unmanned, half-mile-long runaway freight train carrying a dangerous cargo. The film was directed by Tony Scott, and was the fifth and final collaboration between the two, following Crimson Tide (1995), Man on Fire (2004), Déjà Vu (2006) and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009).

In 2012, Washington starred in Flight, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, and co-starred with Ryan Reynolds in Safe House. In preparation for his role in Safe House, Washington subjected himself to a torture session that included waterboarding.[30]

Fall 2014, Washington will next star in The Equalizer, an action thriller film directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Richard Wenk, based on the television series of same name, which starred Edward Woodward.[31]

Recently MGM offered Antoine Fuqua the directing gig on The Magnificent Seven remake, and while he has yet to give an official response, Schmoes Know said he has already signed on and personally offered a role to Denzel.[32]

Personal life[edit]

On June 25, 1983, Washington married Pauletta Pearson, whom he met on the set of his first screen work, the television film Wilma. The couple have four children: John David (b. July 28, 1984), who signed a football contract with the St. Louis Rams in May 2006 and has also played with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League (John David also played college football at Morehouse);[33] Katia (b. November 27, 1986) who graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts in 2010; and twins Olivia and Malcolm (b. April 10, 1991) (Malcolm graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in film studies, and Olivia played a role in Lee Daniels's The Butler.). In 1995, the couple renewed their wedding vows in South Africa with Archbishop Desmond Tutu officiating.[34]

Washington is a devout Christian,[35] and has considered becoming a preacher. He stated in 1999, "A part of me still says, 'Maybe, Denzel, you're supposed to preach. Maybe you're still compromising.' I've had an opportunity to play great men and, through their words, to preach. I take what talent I've been given seriously, and I want to use it for good."[36] In 1995, he donated $2.5 million to help build the new West Angeles Church of God in Christ facility in Los Angeles.[37][38] Washington says he reads the Bible daily.[39]

Washington has served as the national spokesperson for Boys & Girls Clubs of America since 1993.[40] As such, he has been featured in several public service announcements and awareness campaigns for the organization.[41] In addition, he has served as a board member for Boys & Girls Clubs of America since 1995.[citation needed]

In mid-2004, Washington visited Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) at Fort Sam Houston, where he participated in a Purple Heart ceremony, presenting medals to three Army soldiers recovering in the hospital from wounds they received while stationed in Iraq. He also visited the Fisher House facilities that are also part of Fort Sam Houston, and after learning that additional Fisher House facilities were needed due to exceeded capacities, made a substantial donation to the Fisher House Foundation. Washington's other charity work includes donating $1 million to the Children's Fund of South Africa,[38] and $1 million to Wiley College to resuscitate the college's debate team.[42]

Washington is an Independent. He supported Barack Obama in 2008.[43]

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia named Washington as one of three people (the others being directors Oliver Stone and Michael Moore) with whom they were willing to negotiate for the release of three defense contractors that the group had held captive from 2003 to 2008.[44]

On May 18, 1991, Washington was awarded an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Fordham University, for having "impressively succeeded in exploring the edge of his multifaceted talent".[45] In 2011 he donated $2 million to Fordham for an endowed chair of the theatre department, as well as $250,000 for a theatre-specific scholarship to Fordham. He also was awarded an honorary doctorate of humanities from Morehouse College on May 20, 2007.[46] On May 16, 2011, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania.[47]

In 2008, Washington visited Israel with a delegation of African-American artists in honor of the state's 60th birthday.[48]


Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ Hochman, David (December 2007). "Denzel Washington Interview: Devoted to Family and Faith". Reader's Digest. Retrieved 2013-07-26. 
  2. ^ "Five Ways Denzel Can Achieve His EGOT Dream". June 14, 2010. Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  3. ^ (April 4, 2002). "Halle Berry, Denzel Washington get historic wins at Oscars[dead link]. Jet. Digital version retrieved March 17, 2008.
  4. ^ a b Nickson, Chris (1996). Denzel Washington. New York: St. Martin's Paperbacks. pp. 9–11. ISBN 0-312-96043-3. 
  5. ^ "Denzel Washington Biography (1954–)". Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  6. ^ Ingram, E. Renée (2005). Buckingham County. Arcadia Publishing. p. 55. ISBN 0-7385-1842-5. 
  7. ^ Rader, Dodson (December 12, 1999). "I Try To Send A Good Message". Parade Magazine. Archived from the original on April 11, 2006. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Leach OK with star power". Florida Times-Union. Retrieved December 31, 2007. 
  9. ^ "Denzel Washington Returns to Acting Roots". October 28, 2003. Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  10. ^ Frank Isola, "Spurs Coach Sticks Neck Out for Carlesimo", New York Daily News, June 5, 2003.
  11. ^ "Pro Basketball" Notebook; Chicago's Jordan-Jackson-Pippen Triangle, page 2". New York Times. March 22, 1998. Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  12. ^ Paisner, Daniel A Hand to Guide Me (Meredith Books, 2006), p. 17. ISBN 978-0-696-23049-3
  13. ^ Denzel Washington Biography, accessdate=February 13, 2008
  14. ^ "Matthias da Sousa: Colonial Maryland's Black, Jewish Assemblyman", Susan Rosenfeld Falb, MARYLAND HISTORICAL MAGAZINE, VOL. 73, No. 4, DECEMBER 1978
  15. ^ "Matthias da Sousa: Colonial Maryland's Black, Jewish Assemblyman", Susan Rosenfeld Falb, MARYLAND HISTORICAL MAGAZINE, VOL. 73, No. 4, DECEMBER 1978
  16. ^ "St. Mary's: A When-Did Timeline", p. 30, By Janet Butler Haugaard, Executive Editor and Writer, St. Mary’s College of Maryland with Susan G. Wilkinson, Director of Marketing and Communications, Historic St. Mary’s City Commission and Julia A. King, Associate Professor of Anthropology, St. Mary’s College of Maryland. St. Mary's Archives.
  17. ^ "Matthias da Sousa: Colonial Maryland's Black, Jewish Assemblyman", Susan Rosenfeld Falb, MARYLAND HISTORICAL MAGAZINE, VOL. 73, No. 4, DECEMBER 1978
  18. ^ A Soldier's Play, Lortel Archives
  19. ^ "Going Fourth Denzel Washington And Spike Lee On Their Quartet Of Movies". Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  20. ^ Reisinger, Sue. "Ex-Reporter Rains on Denzel's Parade", Miami Herald, April 3, 2000, via
  21. ^ "Remember the Titans (2000)". Box Office Mojo. January 28, 2001. Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  22. ^ From the archive (March 23, 2000). "All ready for a storm". Herald Scotland. Retrieved February 24, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Denzel Washington and Halle Berry Win Golden Globe Awards". Jet. February 7, 2000. Retrieved February 24, 2011. 
  24. ^ "Denzel Washington Movie Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 20, 2007. 
  25. ^ The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009) - IMDb
  26. ^ "A Big-Name Brutus in a Cauldron of Chaos", by Ben Brantley, The New York Times, April 4, 2005.
  27. ^ Farley, Christopher John (May 4, 2010). "2010 Tony Award Nominations: Denzel Washington, Scarlett Johansson Earn Nods". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 4, 2010. 
  28. ^ "BWW TV: 2010 Tony Winners- Washington & Davis", by BroadwayWorld,, June 14, 2010.
  29. ^ "Denzel Washington Heads Back To Broadway In ‘A Raisin In The Sun’". 1 August 2013. Retrieved 2 August 2013. 
  30. ^ Denzel Washington waterboarded while filming. (2012-02-09). Retrieved on 2013-07-13.
  31. ^ Schaefer, Sandy (October 25, 2012). "Denzel Washington’s ‘Equalizer’ Secures Start Date; Lining Up Directors". Screen Rant.
  32. ^ "Rumor: Antoine Fuqua Offers Denzel Washington 'The Magnififcent Seven' Role". 
  33. ^ Associated Press, ed. (May 1, 2006). "Denzel Washington's son among Rams signees". ESPN. Retrieved March 20, 2007. 
  34. ^ "Denzel Washington and Wife Celebrate 27th Wedding Anniversary in Italy",, June 28, 2009
  35. ^ Ojumu, Akin (March 24, 2002). "The Observer Profile: Denzel Washington". The Observer. Retrieved February 11, 2008. 
  36. ^ "Denzel Washington: 'I Try to Send A Good Message'". Parade Magazine. December 12, 1999. 
  37. ^ "Magic gives $5 mil., Denzel gives $2.5 mil. to build new West Angeles COGIC facility in Los Angeles". Jet. November 6, 1995 (link to headline only)
  38. ^ a b Mikkelson, Barbara and David (December 27, 2012). "Denzel Washington". December 28, 2012.
  39. ^ "The GQ&A: Denzel Washington". 
  40. ^ "Board". Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  41. ^ "BE GREAT Alumni". Retrieved 2011-08-14. [dead link]
  42. ^ Ragland, James (2012-01-26). "Wiley College vs. USC: A debate rematch 77 years in the making | The Dallas Morning News". Retrieved 2013-08-20. 
  43. ^ "Denzel Washington: Clint Eastwood Still 'My Hero'". Huffington Post. September 21, 2012. 
  44. ^ "Colombian rebels ask Denzel Washington to help broker hostage exchange". CBC Arts. November 10, 2006. Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
  45. ^ "COMMENCEMENTS: Fordham Graduates Urged to Defend the Poor". New York Times. May 19, 1991. 
  46. ^ "Morehouse Celebrates an 'End of an Era' with a Special Commencement Message from Dr. Walter E. Massey", Morehouse College press release, May 15, 2007.
  47. ^ "Award-Winning Actor Denzel Washington Delivers Penn's 255th Commencement Address" press release
  48. ^ Eichner, Itamar (2008-02-06). "Denzel Washington to visit Israel". Retrieved January 27, 2010. 

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