Denzel Washington, besides being particularly easy on the eyes, is in fact one of the most important actors of his generation. He is arguably the first black actor to achieve leading-man status in A-list Hollywood dramas; although actors like Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy became extremely successful in comedy during the 1980s, it was not until the early 1990s, with films like The Pelican Brief and Crimson Tide, that a black actor could be cast in a starring dramatic role that did not depend on his race.
This success, of course, did not come out of nowhere. Before reaching this level of stardom, Washington had received three Oscar nominations in six years--he was nominated for two Best Supporting Actor Academy Awards, for Cry Freedom in 1988 and for Glory in 1989 (which he won); and also for Best Actor in 1993 for his role in Malcolm X. This is a record that any actor would kill for, and certainly goes to show that Washington is far more than just a "black actor".
To go back to the beginning, Denzel was born on December 28, 1954, in Mount Vernon, New York. He attended Fordham University and graduated in 1977 with a degree in journalism, but decided to pursue acting instead. He got a scholarship to the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, but he left after only a year to concentrate on his career. His first screen appearance was in a TV movie called Wilma in 1977, but the main benefit of it was that he met singer-actress Pauletta Pearson while working on the film. They married in 1983, and now have five children.
He had a minor role in a minor 1981 movie called Carbon Copy (average IMDb rating: 4.4), but it wasn't until his role on the hospital drama St. Elsewhere that Washington really became well known. Now, of course, he gets in the range of $15 million per picture and has joined in the grand Hollywood tradition of having a much younger woman as love interest, i.e. Angelina Jolie in The Bone Collector.
Though most of his success has come from playing honorable, upstanding men of action, like a more noble Harrison Ford, it was a departure from this that won Washington a second Oscar in 2002. This was for the film Training Day, in which he played a morally ambiguous narcotics detective who introduces a rookie cop (played by Ethan Hawke who was also nominated) to the ways of the streets.
In recent years, Washington has expanded his horizons to include directing and producing films. His first effort, Antwone Fisher
, in which he also acted, received some critical acclaim and modest box-office success; not exactly a home run but certainly enough to ensure another try. At this time, the word is that he plans to produce and direct a film about Sammy Davis, Jr.
, but no date has been announced.
Awards (This is just the "important" ones)
2002: Won Best Actor Academy Award and AFI Award for Training Day; Nominated for Golden Globe for same.
2000: Academy Award Best Actor nomination for Hurricane; Won Golden Globe for same.
1993: Academy Award Best Actor nomination and Golden Globe nomination for Malcolm X.
1990: Won both Oscar and Golden Globe for supporting actor in Glory.
1988: Nominated for both Oscar and Golden Globe for supporting actor in Cry Freedom (as Stephen Biko).
Who's Who in America