Denzel is one of the greatest of all time and deserves each and every one of these words of praise.
Oftentimes there comes an entertainment phenomenon who is so unique that it’s difficult not to stumble and stutter around his celebrity. When it comes to actor Denzel Washington, this happens more often than not.
Born on December 28, 1954, Washington is a force. He is the sinew that binds together the histories. Black thespians like Ossie Davis, James Earl Jones and Sidney Poitier with modern day cinematic mavens like Michael B. Jordan, Chadwick Boseman and many others.
He is an actor, director and producer. He’s the recipient of three Golden Globe awards, a Tony Award and two Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor for the historical war drama film Glory, and Best Actor for his role as corrupt detective Alonzo Harris in Training Day.
Though he first started his career back in the early 70s fresh out of Fordham University in the Bronx, Washington’s career started percolating when he made his screen acting debut in the 1977 TV movie Wilma. He followed that up with an appearance in the 1981 comedy Carbon Copy and then elevated his career exponentially year after year.
Denzel expanded his talents, moving from the silver screen to off-Broadway and television, including securing the role of a lifetime in NBC’s hit series St. Elsewhere. It was here where his reputation as an on-screen heart throb began to pick up steam, wowing audiences each week as Dr. Philip Chandler for seven seasons.
He continued his rise in entertainment, taking a major step when he appeared as South African anti-apartheid activist Steven Biko in Cry Freedom in 1989. It was a role which earned him his first Oscar nomination, this one for Best Supporting Actor, and from there he never looked back.
His resume continued to grow and after his performance in 1989 in Glory, he finally got his props in the form of an Oscar, something which hadn’t been granted a black actor since Sidney Poitier won it back in 1964 for Lilies of the Field.
Three years later, he should have won his first Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Malcolm X in Spike Lee’s classic film, but he was robbed and everyone knew it, many considering it the most iconic role in his storied career.
Even after another award-winning performance as the lead in The Hurricane, which chronicled the life of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Washington was overlooked again. But to his credit, Washington’s motivations had nothing to do with awards, but rather putting out solid work that would inspire audiences. That formula was apparent in his work in films like Remember the Titans, The Great Debaters, Training Day, Man on Fire, John Q and Inside Man.
One of the great things about reviewing Washington’s filmography is the diversity of subject matter of plots and characters that he brought to life. The Book of Eli, Safe House, Flight, Fences, Roman J. Israel, Esq.; what other black actor can claim to have that much range and variety of roles to chose from other than Washington?
Some might say Samuel L. Jackson. But as much as he’s our guy, it’s a fact that Denzel was getting better roles at least a decade earlier than Jackson. And, as unbelievable as it is, Jackson hasn’t won an Oscar yet either.
In 2016, Washington added another accomplishment to his lengthy resume as he was selected as the recipient for the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards.
As he ages, Washington continues to dominate most scenes he appears in while emanating a humility that belies his immense talent.
He’s an icon who continues to grow with the swag he’s never lost. So Happy 66th Birthday to Denzel Washington, the most decorated and celebrated black male actor in the history of Hollywood.