Photograph of Denzel Washington after his performance of the Broadway play Julius Caesar in New York City, May 23, 2005 - Paul Rudman/Wikimedia Commons
CAIRO – 28 December 2017: December 28 is the birthday of acclaimed American actor and director Denzel Washington, who turns 63. Winner of two Oscar awards with five nominations under his belt, the most of any African-American actor, Washington has been widely acknowledged as a passionate and charming actor.
Born in Mount Vernon, New York, on 1954, Washington got his earliest start in acting as part of a talent show at the local Boys & Girls Club. Rather than pursue acting as a career however, Washington was set on becoming a journalist, and enrolled at Fordham University after graduating from high school. He was not much of a good student, until he focused his efforts on drama and acting, which proved itself more to his liking.
Getting his start in theatre, Washington quickly proved himself to be formidably talented, paving the way to a bright future in TV and eventually, the big screen. The 1981 film "Carbon Copy" was his screen debut, though his most important early role was in the popular Television series "St. Elsewhere", which ran from 1982 to 1988, where he portrayed the character of Dr. Phillip Chandler.
To celebrate his long, rich career, Egypt Today has picked out ten of his most renowned roles thus far, starting off with;
"Cry Freedom" – Dir. Richard Attenborough (1987)
Based on the life of South African activist Steve Biko (Washington), the film follows Donald Woods (Kevin Kline), editor for a liberal South African Newspaper called the Daily Despatch. Originally highly critical of Biko, Woods begins to warm up to the man’s activism after getting to know him better, and the two form a strong friendship. Yet, when Biko is kidnapped and tortured to death by the police, Woods efforts to publish a book about his friend force him to flee the country, illegally. For his performance here, Denzel earned the first of his five Oscar nominations.
"Glory" - Dir. Edward Zwick (1989)
A look at the American Civil War that focuses on the black participants, Washington co-stars alongside Matthew Broderick, who portrays Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who volunteers to lead the first ever all-African-American regiment, amongst them an escaped slave named Trip (Washington) who at first is distrustful of Shaw leading the group, but learns to accept him as Shaw handles both the enemies and bigotry from his own side.
"The Mighty Quinn" – Dir. Carl Schenkel (1989)
Set on a small island in the Caribbean, this comedy/drama thriller sees Washington as Officer Xavier Quinn, who sets to clear the name of his friend, Maubee (Robert Townsend), after he is imprisoned for supposedly committing murder and stealing tens of thousands of dollars. As Quinn investigates, he discovers just how wild and deep the case really is.
"Mississippi Masala" – Dir. Mira Nair (1991)
This exploration of cross-cultural love follows Meela (Sarita Choudhury), daughter of an Indian immigrant family who fled Uganda following General Idi Amin's expulsion of all Asians of the country. After moving to Mississippi, Meela begins to have feelings for an African-American man named Demetrius Williams (Washington), who her family deeply disapproves of.
"Malcom X" - Dir. Spike Lee (1992)
Washington portrays with stunning accuracy the revolutionary African-American activist Malcom X in this biographical epic highlighting his rise and fall, from his beginning as a small-time criminal to becoming a member of the Nation of Islam and a fiery and passionate speaker, relentless in his criticism of white supremacy.
"Remember the Titans" – Dir. Boaz Yakin (2000)
Following the end of segregation in America during the early 1970s, Washington portrays a coach, Herman Boone, who is newly appointed to coach a mixed-race team at a High School that has only just been open to African-Americans. Under Boone’s guidance, the students not only learn how to become better players but also how to co-exist and acknowledge each other as equals.
"Manchurian Candidate" – Dir. Jonathan Demme (2004)
A remake of the 1962 film of the same name, "Manchurian Candidate" explores the effects of a government brainwashing operation on Captain Ben Marco, who is haunted by strange dreams of what happened in the Gulf War, when his platoon was saved by Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber); an experience which he used to boost his position up to Vice President. Marco begins to realize the truth might be more complicated, with the events that lead Shaw to the top having been fabricated entirely.
"American Gangster" – Dir. Ridley Scott (2007)
In a role less noble than he is typically casting, Washington portrays Frank Lucas, one of NYC’s most efficient drug dealers in the 1970s and the number one importer of Heroin in the USA. Meanwhile, Detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) aims to bring down the kingpins of drug crime in the city, putting him at odds with Lucas.
"Fences" – Dir. Denzel Washington (2016)
Directed by Washington himself, "Fences" proved to be one of 2016’s most critically acclaimed films. Exploring the life of an African-American family in the 1950s, Washington is father Troy Maxson, who dreamt of becoming a major-league baseball player but was too old to join by the time African-Americans were allowed to compete, and now works as a sanitation worker. When Troy’s son aims to become part of the college football team, his father’s bitterness at the past leads to tension between them.