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Producer’s Diary: Denzel Washington

There are few movie stars so transcendent we know them by just one
name: Brando, Pacino, De Niro. Yesterday we had one: Denzel. Denzel is
a noun. To be a Denzel, well, any guy should be so lucky to be
described that way.  And to have a chance to interview Denzel is
certainly a highlight: the guy who glared defiantly at us in Mississippi Masala ,
a performance with such fierce humanity that even the most masculine
guy is sucked into the love story; the same guy who then kicked our ass
in Training Day and won a long overdue Oscar for doing so.

Now he’s directed his second film, The Great Debaters, in
which he also stars. I expected not to like it all that much—I mean it
sounds like a struggle—a black debate team takes on Jim Crow and the
Harvard debate team. But, it’s pretty magnificent. Kinda breathtaking.
So, when he showed up on set, I told him the first question should be
"Is there ANYTHING you suck at?" He laughed and took the compliment
with grace. As I’ve said in this space before, it is always nice when
someone’s brilliant screen persona is matched with an equally charming
off-screen presence. And in that, Denzel did not disappoint. And if you
want to see perhaps the best conversation I’ve witnessed in my tenure
at Shootout, watch Sunday’s show.

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