Denzel Washington has consistently played big budget leads for the past decade, and the camera and the audience love both his poise and sexiness.
Washington grew up listening to stories and oration. The son of a pentacostal minister and a beautician, he learned the power of speech from his father, and the happiness and pain of peoples’ lives from his mother’s clients talking at her salon.
As a young journalism student, Washington got caught up in student productions, and resolved to study acting when he graduated. He won a scholarship to the American Conservatory Theatre but after a year, decided he knew enough to start work on the stage.
Neither a debut film in 1981, nor several roles in TV movies, left any impression on the US audience of 1981, but at least Washington was working.
1982 brought more recognition, when he joined the long-running TV series ‘St Elsewhere’, and the critics raved about his portrayal of Dr Chandler.
Soon after, Hollywood began to take note. Richard Attenborough hired Washington to play an anti-apartheid activist in ‘Cry Freedom’ in 1987. His performance won a Best Supporting Actor Nomination.
It was his role as a courageous run-away slave in ‘Glory’ that put Washington on Hollywood’s A-list two years later. And he has remained there ever since.
Some of his best performances have been under the direction of Spike Lee. Together they have made three films, including the epic ‘Malcolm X’ (1992). The movie was critically acclaimed, with his portrayal of the title character landing him a host of accolades including an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for best actor.
Throughout the 1990s, Washington co-starred in a number of big budget productions including ‘The Pelican Brief’ (1993), ‘Philadelphia’ (1993), and ‘Crimson Tide’ (1995), all of which were well received by critics and earned him more award nominations. He followed these with others including ‘Courage Under Fire’ (1996), which was one of the first films to depict the 1991 Gulf War, ‘He Got Game’ (1998) and the ‘The Bone Collector’ in 1999.
Washington’s portrayal of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in biographical film ‘The Hurricane’ (1999) earned him more recognition, as yet another Academy Award nomination for best actor followed. He won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for the film, which was followed by 2001 hit ‘Training Day’.
The police drama was the crowning glory for Washington as it helped him finally achieve a career highlight - winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of a corrupt cop. Following the success, Washington appeared in ‘John Q’ (2002), before making his directorial debut with ‘Antwone Fisher’ in the same year, which was well received by critics.
Between 2003 and 2004, Washington appeared in a series of thrillers that performed generally well at the box office, including ‘Out of Time’, ‘Man on Fire’ and ‘The Manchurian Candidate’. Two years later he starred in ‘Inside Man’, a Spike Lee-directed bank heist thriller co-starring Jodie Foster and Clive Owen, and ‘Déjà Vu’.
‘American Gangster’ (2007) saw Washington team up with Russell Crowe to play Frank Lucas, a real-life gangster from Harlem. The film earned him further accolades and was followed by ‘The Great Debaters’ (2007), which he also directed, 2009's ‘The Taking of Pelham 123’ and 2010's ‘The Book of Eli’ and ‘Unstoppable’. Washington's next outing was the 2012 film ‘Safe House’, starring opposite Ryan Reynolds. He also starred in the critical hit Flight the same year. His latest film roles were '2 Guns' (2013) and an adaptation of the TV Series 'The Equalizer' (2014).
He lives quietly in Los Angeles, with his wife Pauletta and their four children.