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Denzel Washington's memorable roles

Writer: Peter Chai


Denzel Washington holds the record for most Oscar nominations and most wins by an African-American actor.

Movie critics describe Denzel Washington as one of the most natural and rock-solid actors in Hollywood history and he never fails to delve into the heart and soul of each of the character he portrays in his movies for decades. The New York-born legend's most recent performance in "Flight", has earned him another nomination in the Best Actor category at this year's Academy Awards. Let's walk down the memory lane to honour the successful man.

Steve Biko - "Cry Freedom" (1987)
Washington plays a South African black activist alongside Kevin Kline who was was beaten to death in police custody after giving a political speech on his fight against apartheid at a gathering in the British drama film.

Trivia: Washington received his first ever Oscar nomination for the supporting role.

Trip - "Glory" (1989)
The movie title itself hints to the glory that Washington received, which was bagging his first ever golden man for Best Supporting Actor at the age of 35. The scene where the escaped slave from Tennessee sheds a single tear while being whipped shows Washington's sensitive side onscreen and it has become an unforgettable part of the war drama that fans still mention today.

Trivia: "I had the guy build all the scars to put on my back- and I went out there with an attitude that I'm going to take this and not fold. But it hurt. And the tear was actually real. You know, you just allow it and you're thankful for it. It's not technical. It's not science. It's spirit." – Denzel Washington on the "Glory" tear scene.

Malcom X - "Malcom X" (1992)
Spike Lee's film sees Washington's dramatic portrayal of the controversial African-American Muslim human rights activist, who is accused of preaching black supremacy before he was assassinated in 1965.

Trivia: "Malcom X" marked the second collaboration between Spike Lee and Washington.

Joe Miller - "Philadelphia" (1993)
While everyone focused on Tom Hanks's character, a gay lawyer named Andrew Beckett who contracted AIDS, Washington was able to find relevance as the audience's ignorance and acceptance of the incurable disease by playing a homophobic small time lawyer's presence.

Trivia: Washington often ate chocolate bars in front of Tom Hanks, who was required to lost pounds for his role at the filming set.

Dudley - "The Preacher's Wife" (1996)
An angel that comes to Earth in a form of a handsome black man that changes the life of Reverend Henry Biggs's family and has a bittersweet romance with his wife Julia, played by the late Whitney Houston is a delighting treat for the romance genre.

Trivia: Whitney Houston was persuaded by Washington for a year before she finally agreed to play Julia Biggs.

Rubin Carter - "Hurricane" (1999)
It is not his boxing skills in the ring that makes Washington's appearance in the Norman Jewison's biographical film so special but the actor's touching acting as a determined boxer who is wrongly convicted for murder but became a free man after two decades in prison.

Trivia: Washington won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a motion picture drama with "Hurricane" in 1999.

Detective Alonzo Harris - "Training Day" (2001)
25 March 2001 is a date that Washington and his fellow African-American actors will never forget as the star's rare but flawless and stunning portrayal of a villain earned him his first ever Academy Award for Best Actor at the Oscars. His mad dog behaviour as a narcotic police officer has impressed the moviegoers from the moment he starts to speak in the film.

Trivia: Alonzo Harris is listed at number 50 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains.

John Quincy Archibald - "John Q" (2002)
Washington's helpless father who decides to take a hospital full of patients hostage so that the authorities allow his ill son to receive a heart transplant is a huge challenge on the audience's conscience, dividing them between humanity and law enforcement.

Trivia: "John Q" is a surprising box office success in both American box office record and Washington's career as it ended up grossing at $71,026,631.

Frank Lucas - "American Gangster" (2007)
Washington goes head-to-head with Russell Crowe in the Ridley Scott's crime piece. He took up another real-life role as a honest limo driver-turned-drug dealer. His gutsy act on revealing the names of the dirty cops in New York blows every inch of our minds away.

Trivia: "American Gangster" is the second movie that Washington and Crowe have worked on together.

Captain William Whitaker - "Flight" (2012)
Initially, the pilot is coined as a national hero after saving the passengers during an airliner crash. However, investigations later revealed that he was drunk while on duty. (* Dear pilots, please don't take Captain Whip as role model, please!)

Trivia: "Flight" earned Washington a nomination for Best Actor at the 85th Academy Awards, but lost to Daniel Day-Lewis of "Lincoln" eventually.

Cinema Online, 26 February 2013


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