Washington, Denzel: Best Actor of His Generation?

In The Equalizer, two-time Academy Award-winning actor DENZEL WASHINGTON plays Robert McCall, a man constantly on the move.

Never comfortable repeating himself or his successes, Washington always searches for new challenges through his numerous and varied film and stage portrayals.  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, from the rogue detective, Alonzo in Training Day, to his most recent critically acclaimed performance as the addicted airline pilot Whip Whitaker in Flight, Washington has amazed and entertained audiences with a rich array of characters distinctly his own.

Last summer, the talented actor starred in 2 Guns, opposite Mark Wahlberg.  Other recent films starring Washington are the thriller Safe House, which was the number one box office hit the weekend it debuted in February 2012. He also starred in Unstoppable, with Chris Pine, Book Of Eli, a movie where he also served as a producer, and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, opposite John Travolta and James Gandolfini.

In addition, Washington starred in Ridley Scott’s American Gangster with Russell Crowe, Spike Lee’s Inside Man, with Clive Owen and Jodie Foster, Tony Scott’s Déjà Vu, and Man on Fire. Other movies from this time frame are Jonathan Demme’s remake of The Manchurian Candidate where Washington played the role made famous by Frank Sinatra, and Carl Franklin’s Out Of Time with Eva Mendez.

In 2002, Washington marked his directorial debut with Antwone Fisher. Based on a true-life story about a troubled young sailor as he comes to terms with his past, the film won critical praise, was awarded the Stanley Kramer Award from the Producers Guild of America, and won an NAACP Award for Outstanding Motion Picture and Outstanding Supporting Actor for Washington.

Washington’s next film as director was The Great Debaters, a drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College in Texas who inspired students from the school’s debate team to challenge Harvard in the national championship in 1935. Washington also co-starred in the film with Academy Award®-winning actor Forest Whitaker and introduced upcoming young actors Nate Parker, Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Denzel Whitaker who have gone on to have successful careers.

During the 1990s, Washington starred in Jerry Bruckheimer’s box-office sensation Remember the Titans, and Norman Jewison’s The Hurricane, where he received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and an Academy Award® nomination for his portrayal of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the world middleweight champion boxer during the 1960s who was wrongfully imprisoned twice for the murder of three whites in a New Jersey bar on June 17, 1966.

Another critically acclaimed performance was Washington’s portrayal of Malcolm X in director Spike Lee’s biographical epic, Malcolm X.  Monumental in scope and filmed over a period of six months in the United States and Africa, Malcolm X was 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.

Other notable Washington films include John Q, with Halle Berry, Phillip Noyce’s The Bone Collector, opposite Angelina Jolie, Fallen, Spike Lee’s He’s Got Game, Ed Zwick’s The Siege, Penny Marshall’s The Preacher’s Wife with Whitney Houston, Tony Scott’s Crimson Tide opposite Gene Hackman, Virtuosity, Courage Under Fire and Devil in a Blue Dress.  He also starred in Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, Jonathan Demme’s controversial Philadelphia with Tom Hanks and The Pelican Brief, opposite Julia Roberts.

Washington’s professional theater 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”; and “A Soldier’s Play,”for which he won an Obie Award. He also appeared in the Broadway production of “Checkmates” and “Richard III,” which was part of the 1990 free Shakespeare in the Park series hosted by Joseph Papp’s Public Theatre in New York City.

In 2005, Washington returned to Broadway as Marcus Brutus in the critically acclaimed production of “Julius Caesar.” More recently, when he appeared opposite Viola Davis in a 14-week run of August Wilson’s “Fences” in 2010, his powerful performance earned him his first Tony Award.  He recently returned to Broadway in a new production of Lorraine Hansbury’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” which won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.

Washington was ‘discovered’ by Hollywood when he was cast in 1979, in the television film “Flesh and Blood.”  But it was his award-winning performance on stage in “A Soldier’s Play” that captured the attention of the producers for the television series, “St. Elsewhere,”who cast him as Dr. Phillip Chandler in the long-running series.

In 1982, Washington re-created his role from “A Soldier’s Play” in Norman Jewison’s motion picture A Soldier’s Story.  Washington 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.

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 subsequently nominated for two Emmy Awards.  Also, he served as executive producer on “Hank Aaron: Chasing The Dream,” a biographical documentary for TBS, which was nominated for an Emmy Award.

Washington’s narration of “John Henry” for a children’s album was nominated for a 1996 Grammy Award in the category of Best Spoken Word Album for Children. He also was awarded the 1996 NAACP Image Award for his performance in the animated children’s special “Happily Ever After: Rumpelstiltskin.”