Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Denzel Washington

When Denzel won his second Oscar, for the movie Training Day, it was quite a night.

The air was electric. It's always electric for the nominees but especially so that night because Sidney Poitier was there to get an honorary Oscar from the Academy.

It would be his second.

He was the first black man to take Best Actor for Lilies of the Field in 1963. It paved the way for actors like Denzel Washington to follow in his footsteps. And you better believe that Denzel and every other black actor and actress had a special place in their hearts for Sidney.

That ceremony was still to come.

There I was talking to all kinds of people on the red carpet, and along comes Mr. Washington with his wife, the former Pauletta Pearson, whom he met on the set of the television film Wilma.

She left to talk to someone you know and it was just me and Denzel. I'd talked to him a number of times so it was,"Hey, how ya doin'?" He said, "I'm nervous and I usually don't get nervous."

We're doing the interview when he sees that his wife is hugging and talking to Julia Roberts. She and Denzel met when they did Pelican Brief and have been great friends ever since. His eyebrows go up and down and he said conspiratorially, "Let's listen in."

When Julia saw him, she squealed, and threw her arms around him.

Oscar winners. Friends.

I met Denzel in Cannes, France.  He was there for Much Ado About Nothing, written by the bard, William Shakespeare. Swashbuckling doesn't even begin to describe Denzel in the film. He was handsome, he was dashing, he had star power. I found him to be intelligent with a quick mind. And very polite. Just nice.

I mention that meeting because I didn't see him afterwards for about six months. I was slated to to talk to him about Crimson Tide, a movie he made with Gene Hackman. As I walked into the hotel room in Los Angeles, he said,"Are we on a pier in France?" I couldn't believe he remembered.

Back to that night.

Halle Berry was the first African American woman to win the Best Actress Oscar, for her work in Monsters Ball.

I saw her in the elevator at our hotel the day before the show. She was with her mom and I said,"After you win don't forget to come talk to me." "But, I'm not going to win!" She reluctantly agreed that if that did happen she would do just that.

Guess what? She won. Afterwards we talked. At the end of our chat I said,"On your headstone it will say "Oscar Winner Halle Berry."

She looked at me, we hugged, and then we both started to cry.

Denzel was the Best Actor. It was the first and still the only time that African Americans took home the top two acting prizes.

I talked to Denzel backstage. It was special and the Golden Guy was with him as well.

I asked him about Sidney and he said,"If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be sitting here." I said, "What's next?"

He laughed and said he didn't know but, "I've got to get a new angle."

"New angle?"

"For years people have been saying sorry you didn't win for this, sorry you didn't win for that." Holding up the Oscar, Denzel said, "Now that I have this they won't say it anymore. I need a new angle."

And then he laughed.

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1 comment:

  1. Sidney cracked it open, and Denzel and Halle broke it big this Oscar season! Wahoo! I love this story, especially how you capture the human personalities of these stars. I guess with many people in Hollywood, what you see on screen is what you really get. That's why it is hard to see Denzel play a bad guy. Ha!