Denzel Washington is an iconic figure many times over. He has starred in movies that have had more than just entertainment value – they’ve actually left viewers with lasting impressions. He has worked hard and his efforts have been recognized with two Golden Globes, a Tony Award and two Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor in “Glory,” and Best Actor in “Training Day.”
Before all of these accolades, Denzel Washington says in a video, he was once at a crossroad where he had to make a choice. That choice, he says, could have led to a career path that was quite different from the one he finds himself in today.
It was 1986, Denzel says he was invited to audition for a part in a comedy movie. “I called it ‘The Niggα They Couldn’t Kill‘,” he says.
He was asked to play the part of a black man who was accused of rαping a white woman and was then sentenced to die.
“They tried to electrocute him, but it didn’t work … and then they tried to hang him, and then they tried to do all this stuff,” Denzel says.
But, he could see nothing funny in it.
“I had a lot of ‘Training Day‘ in me and there was some Jewish people in the audition … and they said it was funny – they hang him… and I said, ‘Yeah, it’s like you bring some Jewish people into a room and they think it’s a shower and it’s gas!’, and they said ‘You’re right!’ and I said, ‘Right, that ain’t funny. So, to me it wasn’t funny about putting a rope around my MF-ing neck, either!’”
“I could just see the poster, with me with a rope around my neck,” Washington said.
Denzel says that he then called Sidney Poitier and told him that he had been offered $600,000 to play the part. Poitier told him, “I’m not going to tell you what to do. But I can tell you this: the first two or three or four films you do… will dictate how you’re perceived in this business. So, you make a decision.”
Denzel turned the part down and six months later he got the part in “Cry Freedom,” which would get him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
“My whole career could have gone an entirely different way,” Denzel said.
Well, the art world is lucky that it didn’t.
Watch the video.