Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Denzel Washington, Jan. 24, 1993

Standard-Examiner staff

PARK CITY -- Denzel Washington said he was tired. And he had reason: He worked until 5:30 a.m. Saturday on an all-night shoot in Philadelphia, then he hopped a plane to Utah for a full-day's slate of activities at the Sundance Film Festival.

Washington was at the festival to receive the second annual Piper-Heidsieck Tribute to Independent Vision award. Last year's recipient was actor John Turturro.

"I'm not really an award person," Washington said. "But I wanted to come up here and see what it's like. And I wanted to talk to Robert (Redford, the Sundance Institute's founder) about some ideas I have."

Washington spent the evening in Park City when he could have attended the Golden Globe Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. He had been nominated as best actor for his work in "Malcolm X." Washington is a familiar face at the movies, having been seen in films such as "A Soldier's Story," "The Mighty Quinn," "Mo' Better Blues" and "Mississippi Masala." He's received Oscar nominations for "Cry Freedom" and "Glory," and won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor for the latter.

Washington described his career choices -- the diverse roles he's played figure largely into the reason he's been selected for tribute at Sundance -- as "no big deal."

"It's more about what I chose not to do, and then about what's left," the actor explained.

Furthermore, he said that even though he's played slain civil rights leaders in two films -- anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko in Richard Attenborough's "Cry Freedom," and Malcolm X in Lee's film of the same name -- he doesn't have an agenda, either. It all comes down to whether a film interests him, he says.

As for the analysis after the fact, such as reviews and the omnipresent reportage of box office tallies, the actor says none of that really interests him. For Washington, it's the work that matters.

"That's what I enjoy, the process. Then I just let it go," he said. "I read the comics, not the obituaries."

Washington is also adamant about correcting what he terms a "cultural depression" that has beset the American artistic community -- roughly coinciding with the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

"A nation that nurtures and develops their art," Washington said, has the best to offer. By way of example, he said all the best acting and directing talent seems to be coming from Great Britain and the rest of Europe -- if you look at Oscar nominations over the past several years in the acting and directing categories. Washington said he hopes, however, that this will change in favor of American talent now that a Democratic administration is in place.

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