- Simon Garner
Actor of the Week: Denzel Washington
This week, we celebrate a man who has not only won two Oscars, but has also, incredibly, received a further six nominations! That man is the iconic Denzel Washington! His Oscar record alone is seriously impressive, but he has churned out many a quality project, nominated or not.
Washington has played a number of real life figures in his career, and has been highly praised for doing so. Some of these figures are Malcolm X in Malcolm X, boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter in The Hurricane, and poet Melvin B. Tolson in The Great Debaters. Two of these films, Malcolm X and The Hurricane, earned him two of the previously mentioned Academy Award nominations.
Away from film for a moment, he was well known early on for playing Dr. Philip Chandler in the highly popular series St. Elsewhere. St. Elsewhere was set in a fictional run-down teaching hospital, its real name in the series being St. Eligius Hospital. 'St. Elsewhere' is an industrial term for a hospital with older methods and equipment. St. Elsewhere enjoyed a cult following and was enjoyed for its gritty realism, a trait which I am fond of in many projects.
Washington’s first Oscar win came quite early in his career, when he won the Best Supporting Actor award in Glory. Glory is a war film based upon the books Lay This Laurel and One Gallant Rush, by Lincoln Kirstein and Peter Burchard respectively. Washington plays Silas Tripp, a Private who is caught when it is thought he has gone AWOL, when he was in fact off in search of new shoes, as he and his men are not receiving the necessary supplies. Colonel Robert Shaw has him punished in front of everyone, by flogging him. He later learns of Tripp’s true intentions and defends him and his men from that point on. The obvious big award aside, Washington earned huge praise for his turn in Glory, and it was clear from that early on he was to become a big-game player.
From there, Washington went on to star in so many films that were, at the very least, popular and well thought of. Some of these include Crimson Tide, The Bone Collector, The Manchurian Candidate, and Philadelphia. In the latter, he starred alongside a former Actor of the Week winner in Tom Hanks. Both actors churned out top performances here, with Hanks winning the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
Personally, when it comes to Washington, my favourite film of his has to be Inside Man. There are many factors as to why, and Washington plays a part in many of them. Inside Man tells the story of Clive Owen’s Dalton Russell and his elaborate, genius heist on a bank, that has a broker and the police pulling their hair out. Owen and Washington have few encounters in person, but have plenty of verbal confrontations over the phone, and this is one of the main reasons I am so fond of the film. Washington and Owen bounce off each other tremendously well throughout these negotiations, with Washington’s sarcasm and, at times, hot headedness clashing expertly with Owens steely calm and determination. I think it’s extra impressive considering it’s largely vocal, with no body language to react to. Inside Man is held fondly by many, but I feel it should be praised far more than it is because it’s truly a great watch.
Even now, having been on the scene for so long, Washington is churning out top notch films, and turns heads whenever he is announced for a role. It’s a credit to the man, a true Hollywood legend. Cheers Denzel!