Denzel Washington Biography |
  • Denzel Washington Biography

    Born: December 28, 1954 in Mount Vernon, New York, USA

    Two-time Academy Award®-winning actor Denzel Washington is a man constantly on the move.  Never comfortable repeating himself or his successes, Washington is always in search of new challenges and his numerous and varied film and stage portrayals bear this out.  From Trip, an embittered runaway slave in Glory, to South African freedom fighter Steven Biko in Cry Freedom; from Shakespeare's tragic historical figure Richard III, to the womanizing trumpet player, Bleek Gilliam in Spike Lee's Mo' Better Blues, Washington has amazed and entertained us with a rich array of characters distinctly his own.

    Perhaps one of his most critically acclaimed performances to date was his Academy-Award® winning performance in Training Day, directed by Antoine Fuqua.  It was one of only two films in 2001 that spent two weeks at the number one spot at the box office.

    Next up for the talented thespian is his starring role alongside Russell Crowe in American Gangster, directed by Ridley Scott. The film is based on the true juggernaut success story that portrays the life of a cult hero from the streets of 1970s Harlem during one of America’s biggest drug wars.

    More recent feature films include Déjà Vu, re-teaming Washington with director Tony Scott whom he previously collaborated with on Man On Fire. Washington was also seen in Spike Lee’s The Inside Man, opposite Clive Owen, and The Manchurian Candidate, a modern day remake of the 1962 classic film in the part that Frank Sinatra made famous.

    In 2002, Washington starred in John Q, a story about a down-on-his-luck father whose son is in need of a heart transplant.  The film established an opening day record for President’s Day weekend, grossing $24.1 million and was the highest weekend gross in Washington’s illustrious career.   The film also garnered Washington a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture.

    With many movies to his credit, other notable features include Jerry Bruckheimer’s box-office sensation ($115 million domestic gross) Remember the Titans.  He also starred in The Hurricane, where he received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and an Academy Award® nomination (his fourth) for his portrayal of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, who was the world middleweight champion boxer during the 1960s, and wrongfully imprisoned twice for the murder of three white people in a New Jersey bar.

    Another critically acclaimed performance was his portrayal of Malcolm X, the complex and controversial Black activist from the 1960s, in director Spike Lee's biographical epic, Malcolm X, hailed by critics and audiences alike as one of the best films of 1992.   For his portrayal, Washington received a number of accolades including an Academy Award® nomination for Best Actor.

    His other key films are The Bone Collector, Fallen, He’s Got Game, The Siege, Courage Under Fire, The Preacher’s Wife, Crimson Tide, Virtuosity, and Devil In A Blue Dress. Additional film credits include Kenneth Branaugh's film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, Jonathan Demme's controversial Philadelphia with Tom Hanks and The Pelican Brief, based on the John Grisham novel.

    In addition to his accomplishments on screen, Washington took on a very different type of role in 2000. He produced the HBO documentary Half Past Autumn: The Life and Works of Gordon Parks, which was nominated for two Emmys. He also served as Executive Producer on Hank Aaron: Chasing The Dream, a biographical documentary for TBS that was nominated for an Emmy Award.  Additionally, Washington's narration of the legend of John Henry was nominated for a 1996 Grammy Award in the category of Best
    Spoken Word Album for Children and he was awarded the 1996 NAACP Image Award for his performance in the animated children's special, Happily Ever After: Rumpelstiltskin.  He made his directorial debut with Antwone Fisher that was released in 2002.

    A native of Mt. Vernon, New York, Washington had his career sights set on medicine when he attended Fordham University.   During a stint as a summer camp counselor he appeared in one of their theatre production and was bitten by the acting bug.   He returned to Fordham that year seeking the tutelage of Robinson Stone, one of the school's leading professors, and upon graduation from Fordham, Washington was accepted into San Francisco's prestigious American Conservatory Theater.  Following an intensive year of study in their theater program, he returned to New York after a brief stop in Los Angeles.

    Washington's  professional career  began  with Joseph Papp's  Shakespeare in  the  Park and  was quickly followed by numerous off-Broadway productions including  Ceremonies in Dark  Old Men; When The Chickens Came Home to Roost (in which he portrayed Malcolm X);  One Tiger to a Hill; Man and Superman; Othello; A Soldier's Play, for which he won an Obie Award.   Washington's other stage appearances include the Broadway production of Checkmates and Richard III, which was produced as part of the 1990 Free Shakespeare in the Park series hosted by Joseph Papp's Public Theatre in New York City.

    Washington was discovered by Hollywood when he was cast in 1979 in the television film Flesh and Blood. It was his award-winning performance on stage in A Soldier's Play that captured the attention of the producers of the NBC television series, St. Elsewhere, and he was soon cast in the long-running hit series as Dr. Phillip Chandler.

    In 1982, Washington re-created his role from A Soldier's Play for Norman Jewison's film version. Re-titled A Soldier's Story, Washington’s portrayal was critically well-received. He went on to star in Sidney Lumet's Power, Richard Attenborough's Cry Freedom for which he received his first Oscar nomination, For Queen and Country, The Mighty Quinn, Heart Condition, Glory, for which he won the Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actor and Spike Lee's Mo' Better Blues.  Washington also starred in the action adventure film, Ricochet, and in Mira Nair's bittersweet comedy Mississippi Masala.

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