Washington, Denzel

Washington, Denzel (Denzel Hayes Washington Jr.), 1954- , African-American actor, b. Mount Vernon, N.Y., Fordham Univ. (B.A., 1977). Washington’s father was a Pentecostal minister and his mother owned a beauty parlor; his parents divorced when he was 14 years old. Following college, he spent one year at the American Conservatory Theater’s graduate school in San Francisco before returning to New York seeking a career in acting. He won an Obie Award as a member of the ensemble in the Off-Broadway production of A Soldier’s Play (1981) before landing a role in the TV medical drama, St. Elsewhere (1982-88). He began his movie career at the same time, appearing in the film adaptation of A Soldier’s Story (1984) and portrayed Steven Biko in Cry Freedom (1987). In the ‘90s, he began an association with director Spike Lee, notably appearing in the title role in the film Malcolm X (1992). He followed this with 1993’s AIDS drama, Philadelphia, the action-thriller Crimson Tide (1995), and The Hurricane (1999; Golden Globe Award, Best Actor-Motion Picture Drama, 2000), in which he portrayed boxer Reuben “Hurricane” Carter. He followed with more action films, including Training Day (2001, Academy Award, best actor; he was only the second Black actor to receive this honor, following Sidney Poitier). In 2010, he returned to the stage in the revival of August Wilson’s Fences, for which he won a Tony Award for Best Actor, followed by A Raisin in the Sun (2014; Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play); in 2016, he directed the film adaptation of Fences.

See his A Hand to Guide Me (2006).

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