“Acting’s like someone asking you for years to write the characters, but they write the book.” -Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington, (full name Denzel Hayes Washington Jr.) was born on Dec. 28, 1954 in Mount Vernon, NY. He is an award-winning actor, director and filmmaker who has received three Golden Globes, two Academy Awards, and a Tony Award for his work. In 2016, he was the recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. He is known for his portrayal of iconic figures (real and fictional), and his participation practically guarantees a movie’s success.
Below are 48 Fascinating Facts about this multi-talented actor.
Denzel Washington broke his pinky finger in a basketball accident when he was a kid. The finger was never set correctly, and to this day it’s still bent at the bottom knuckle.
47. It’s better this time
Denzel Washington has starred in four remakes, the most recent of which is The Magnificent Seven. The other being Manchurian Candidate, The Taking of Pelham 123, and Man on Fire.
46. I choose you
For two years in a row (2006, 2007), Denzel Washington was voted “America’s Favorite Movie Star’ in Harris Polls.
45. Do me next
Denzel Washington has received acclaim for his portrayals of real people. Among them are Rubin “Hurricane Carter” (for which he received an Oscar Nomination), Malcom X, Steve Biko, and Melvin Tolson.
44. Beauty Parlor Prophecy
A woman in Washington’s mother’s beauty parlor known as “the Prophetess”, saw him and wrote down a prophecy predicting that he would grow up and speak to millions.
43. Named After His Father
Denzel Washington is named after his father, who was named after the Doctor who delivered him. His name? Doctor Denzel.
42. The only one who could ever reach me
Denzel’s father was a Pentecostal Minister, and he belonged to the Church of God in Christ Denomination for most of his life. Washington elected not to follow in his father’s footsteps, because “going to church felt like a job”.
41. I believe
Denzel Washington still maintains his Christian faith, and has publicly stated that he reads his bible every day. In a speech to Dillard’s graduating class in 2015, he encouraged the students to “put God first”.
40. Special Someone
While visiting Atlanta to promote his movie Fences, Denzel Washington took a moment to visit his childhood librarian Miss Connie in her assisted living facility to wish her a happy 99th birthday. They hadn’t seen each other in nearly 50 years, but she said she’d never forgot him.
39. It’s Science
A Newsweek article from the 90s about the biological basis for the perception of beauty used Denzel Washington as their primary example as “perfection for beauty”
38. Sexiest Man Alive
Denzel Washington was named People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” in 1996. He remains the only black person to win the distinction to date.
37. Be all you can be
When he was 14 years old, Washington was sent to Oakland Military Academy in New Windsor, New York. He said that the decision to send him there changed his life, because he wouldn’t have survived on the path he was going down.
Denzel Washington met his wife Pauletta while filming the T.V. movie Wilma. They got married 5 years later, and have been married 34 years.
35. Role Model
When he was six years old, Denzel Washington joined the Boys & Girls Club of America. He credits the club with teaching him lessons that led him to where he is today, and has been their national spokesperson since 1993.
34. Police Chief for a Day
When he was a member of the Boys & Girls Club of America, Washington was awarded the title of “Police Chief for a Day”. The photo was shown during his 1988 appearance on Live with Regis and Kelly.
33. Tiny Talent Time
When Denzel Washington was 7 or 8 years old, he appeared in a talent show with the Boys and Girls Club of America
32. Many Hats
Washington considered a number of different career paths at University before taking up acting. At various points he considered medicine, law, politics and even journalism.
31. Are You Ready for the Summer?
While in University, Denzel Washington worked at an overnight camp as a Creative Arts Director. He participated in a staff talent show at the camp, where a colleague suggested he try acting.
Denzel Washington received his B.A. in Drama and Journalism from Fordham University in 1977.
29. An Ordinary Dad
Denzel Washington has four children, (including a set of twins), but didn’t let being famous stop him from taking care of them when they were younger. He would take them to all kinds of sports and school events, saying that “family is life, and entertainment is fantasy”.
28. Playing Doctor
Before hitting it big on the big screen, Denzel Washington was most famous for his role as Dr. Philip Chandler in the hit television show St. Elsewhere.
27. Persistence Pays Off
When Denzel Washington offered Whitney Houston the role of his wife in the Penny Marshall comedy The Preacher’s Wife, she initially turned him down. He continued to ask her for a year before she agreed.
Denzel Washington was almost unrecognizable on the set of his upcoming role as lawyer Roman Israel. Fans spotted him wearing a fat suit, an afro, and black-framed glasses.
25. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Denzel Washington was not the first actor considered for the role of Joe Miller. Director Jonathan Demme originally wanted to cast a comedian as a counter-balance for Hanks, but he’d wanted to work with Washington for years, and decided to give him the role when he expressed interest.
24. Don’t Look Down
Denzel is scared of heights and uses stuntmen for many of his films. However, in the film “Unstoppable,” when he is on top of the train and jumping from one car to another, it really is him.
23. Summer Stock Theater.
In 1976, Washington spent the summer in Maryland performing in their State play Wings of the Morning for summer stock theater. The play was written for him, and incorporated an African-American character/narrator loosely based on an early historical figure Mathias da Sousa.
22. Channelling Malcom
In order to prepare for his role as Malcom X, Denzel Washington avoided eating pork, attended Fruit of Islam classes, and learned to Lindy Hop. He was so immersed in the character that he even knew which pair of glasses Malcom X wore on a given day.
21. “On the Beat”
As preparation for his role in The Pelican Brief, Denzel spent several months shadowing Washington Post reporters.
20. He’s Got Game!
For a scene in the movie He Got Game, director Spike Lee encouraged the actors to play basketball for real. When the game began, Denzel Washington scored 4 straight points receiving cheers and whoops from the sidelines. Co-star Ray Allen was furious, and scored 10 points in a row, leading Lee to declare the game over and Allen the winner.
19. Taking a hit
The studio producing the movie Flight had an extremely tight budget and couldn’t afford a star like Denzel Washington. Washington, however believed in the project, and he, along with director Robert Zemeckis gave up 90% of their salaries to have it made.
18. First Movie
The movie Carbon Copy is about a white man who discovers that he has a black son. The movie is rarely shown on TV because of the politically incorrect racial humour.
17. Don’t mess
For his role in The Book of Eli, Washington studied Martial Arts under a Bruce Lee protégé, and he performed all of his own stunts in the hand-to-hand fight scenes.
16. Middle Eastbound
In 2008, Denzel Washington was part of a delegation of African American artists to visit Israel in honor of the State’s 60th birthday.
15. Took a Flogging
For a flogging scene in Glory, Denzel Washington reportedly received lashes at full-contact. A special whip was used that wouldn’t cut his back, but it did sting. In the final take, Washington shed a single tear, which Washington later said wasn’t planned.
14. Most Inspiring
Denzel Washington had seven films represented on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Cheers: America’s Most Inspiring Movies list.
He was also on the AFI’s Top 45 Villains of the 20th Century list for his role as rogue Det. Alonzo Harris in Training Day.
12. Not funny
Denzel Washington’s first big-screen film was the comedy Carbon Copy in 1981, but he’s only done 3 comedies since.
11. That Wasn’t in the Script
Denzel Washington has been known to improvise or ad-lib lines. He, at his screen test for Training Day, he reportedly angered co-star Ethan Hawk by improvising his lines. In fact, Washington’s famous line “King Kong ain’t got s— on Me!” was not in the script. On ad-libbing he says: “You have to grab moments when they happen.”
10. Is that necessary?
In 1995, while Washington was filming Crimson Tide, Quentin Tarantino, who had unofficially done a rewrite of the script visited the set. After viewing the rewrite, Washington reportedly publicly called him out for his constant use of racial slurs in the film. They later buried the hatchet, and Washington’s daughter has since worked with Tarantino.
Denzel Washington was late for the 1987 Oscars. By the time he arrived, the red carpet was over, and everybody was inside because the ceremony had already started.
8. Directorial Debut
Denzel Washington made his directorial debut with the movie Antwone Fisher. He also starred in the movie, believing that it was the only way the movie would get financing.
Tom Hanks said that working with Denzel Washington on Philadelphia was like “going to film school”. He said he learned more about acting from Washington than he had from anyone else.
6. Six pack
Denzel Washington is only the sixth actor to win both a Best Supporting Actor and Best Actor Oscar joining Robert De Niro, Kevin Spacey, Jack Nicholson, Jack Lemon and Gene Hackman.
5. The Role that Got Away
The role that Washington most regrets turning down is Det. David Mills in Seven. He said that when he read the script he couldn’t see himself playing that role, but when he saw it, realized he’d made a mistake. The character ended up being played by Brad Pitt.
4. A Tony
In 2013, Denzel Washington won a Tony Award for his role in the play Fences, alongside co-star Viola Davis. Recently, he was nominated for an Oscar for his reprisal of the role, but lost to Casey Affleck.
When Denzel Washington won his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Glory, he was only the second black actor to win in the history of the award. The first was Sidney Poitier in 1963.
2. An Oscar Repeat
Denzel Washington won the coveted Best Actor Oscar, for his role in Training Day.
1. Set an Oscar Record
With his nomination for Fences, Denzel Washington became the most-nominated black actor with seven Oscar nominations.