Denzel Washington was feeling chirpy, the morning after his latest film, "Out of Time", had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. It’s the Oscar-winning actor’s third year in a row at the prestigious Festival. He was there last year with "Antwone Fisher", and previously with "Training Day" and "The Hurricane". But he insists that he’s not here for the parties, insisting these days, he’s just a good boy, “but I’m a good MAN”, he says, emphasizing the man, and allowing himself a quiet chuckle
Washington’s partying days are over, he muses, and not just because he is about a year shy from turning 50. “I got a lot to do. I’ve got to jump right back on a plane, and in another week I start rehearsals so I’m just too tired. I just don’t feel like all of that.” Naturally Washington’s upcoming milestone can’t be avoided, which the actor shrugs off. “I did an interview yesterday and a guy kept saying ‘so, you’re going to be 50 now. You’re going to be 50 and as a 50 year old. What does 50 feel like?’ ‘Well’ I said’ ‘I’m 48, ok? 48. Don’t put 50 on me,’ “he recalls laughingly. But he also adds that he’s not terrified of that particular epoch in his life. “You think I’m running away from it in fear? No, age ain’t nothing but a number so I feel good. I notice things on health on television now, because when you turn 50 you need to get those exams and when you turn 50 you’re more at risk for this and that. So it is a reality.” And as an actor, Washington is still up for those physically challenging roles, 50 be damned. “My body hasn’t failed me, thank God and I’ve been blessed with good genes. I’ve been boxing since ’94 and really heavy since I did The Hurricane and I like to box. In certain films I work out. In Out Of Time I was lifting weights a lot, so I just try to stay healthy.”
In Out of Time, Washington looks fitter than ever, as he jumps around, runs and fights with the bad guys, in this fast-paced thriller about a small-town chief of police who becomes the main suspect in a double murder. It’s an unusual character for the actor in some ways, someone who dabbles in corruption but isn’t as bad as he seems. Washington sums him up in this way. “He’s very complex, which is what I thought was interesting. He’s human, stupid, arrogant, a big fish in a small pond, and worse than an adulterer. I see this as very much a film about Temptation. It’s not a character driven picture, per se, but that was the ark of the character for me.”
Washington has little in common with this latest character. In an industry itself driven by temptation, Washington’s Hollywood life is almost an anomaly. He has been married to his wife Pauletta for over 20 years and they have four children. The actor feels blessed, he says, and you know he means it. “Fortunately I married a great woman and on top of all that, my wife is a good Christian woman and the kids all know their prayers and they say their grace. She’s made their breakfast for them every morning, and packed their school lunches and taken them to school every day. So, I’m just like this satellite that spins around her,” he says laughingly. As devoted as he is a husband and father, Washington remains one of Hollywood’s hardest working actors. He says that he remains driven to work so hard out of fear, “a fear of failure and the desire to be the best that I can be.” His second Oscar win for Training Day managed to confirm that “for about 10 minutes,” he says. “I think that makes for more fear or at least determination. People ask me a lot about this Oscar and what it means and I’m like, I won one 13 years ago and to me there is no difference in supporting and best actor. It’s like writers. If they gave out an Oscar for writing an article should a 1000 word article be a supporting writer and a 2000 word article a leading article, what’s the difference? That doesn’t mean that the leading writer is a better writer. So I really feel that way and it was not more of a thrill the first time. All of those things, the responsibility or fears and all that, I think were more acute 13 years ago for me than now.”
Washington was able to enhance his fears by directing Antwone Fisher, an experience, he says, rejuvenated him. “Directing really helped to kick start me as an actor again because I was really tired of it. A couple of years ago I was really bored and I was getting some great roles but just thought I can’t do this anymore. Then directing and finding out how hard a job that was, gave me new life because I really want to do that again.” Yet he did enjoy taking his shoes off and just acting in Out of Time, make no mistake. “I didn’t have to carry the load – directing, acting, all of that and even in the film, I didn’t have to carry the load. I kind of react to everybody, so that was a release for me.”
Washington has just completed Man on Fire and is about to star in a remake of The Manchurian Candidate, admitting that he has never seen the original nor has any intention of doing so. “I’m not sure what I’d get of doing that.” He also has a strong desire to return to the stage, amongst other things. “The sort of vibe I’m putting out there over the next 3 or 4 or 5 years is to direct another picture, to do a comedy and to get onstage. Those are the things I want to do.” On stage, he says that he wants to revisit Shakespeare’s Othello. “I figure I played Othello in college and about 13 years ago I did Richard the Third and I wouldn’t mind hitting either one of those but maybe move onto something else.”
OUT OF TIME OPENS NATIONALLY ON FRIDAY.
- PAUL FISCHER