Playing an ATF agent in the Tony Scott action/drama
Denzel Washington has been named the Sexiest Man Alive, and truly, he's a pretty good looking guy at nearly 52 years old. But not only that, he knows how to pick movies.
His latest film, Déjà Vu takes him to New Orleans as an ATF agent investigating a terrorist bombing on a Navy ship. What he doesn't know is tracking the man (Jim Caviezel) who set the bomb off, will take him four days in the past. The only person who can help him is dead - a young girl, who washed up on shore (Paula Patton); going back to follow her takes Denzel on a wild chase across the Big Easy.
We sat down with Denzel to talk about his role in the film, his third time working with director Tony Scott, and how Tony compares to his brother, Ridley. Check it out...
What did you have to do to research being an ATF agent for the movie?
Denzel Washington: Tony, like myself, likes research; he always tracks down real guys who do - we did it with Déjà Vu, an ATF guy who was instrumental in figuring out the Oklahoma City bombing. We used his methods and applied it directly to this film; they found small pieces of plastic in the destruction of the Federal building, they identified it, tracked it, found out it came from barrels, found out where they were made, found out where they were purchased and worked their way back; they already had McVay at that time, but they were able to connect him to those things. We took that directly and applied it to our story; when he would get very tired working twenty, thirty, hours at a time, he said, 'If you brush your teeth it's like getting an hour's sleep.' I put that in the movie, I brushed my teeth in the scene, so I like as Tony likes, finding real people.
How was it working with Tony for the third time, and then moving on to work with his brother, Ridley?
Denzel Washington: Yeah, third time with Tony, third time with Jerry (Bruckheimer) as well; needless to say, we've had tremendous success. I like working with Tony, I hope to do more movies with him; I must be the first person in the business to work with Tony Scott and Ridley Scott in the same year. Obviously, Tony and Jerry know what they're doing; when they call me and say, 'Hey we've got this idea and this is what we want to do,' I listen.
Since this film deals with time travel, do you ever look back at your life and reflect on what's happened?
Denzel Washington: I don't look back, no. Maybe when I'm older; people say, 'What's your favorite film?' I say, 'My next one.' I'm not interested in sitting around; I just don't, never have.
Did you have a chance to wrap your head around the technology concepts?
Denzel Washington: Tony and Jerry had to somewhat convince me that this could work, and the original screenplay I was like, 'Hmm, I don't know fellas.' Tony was saying, 'Look, we want to steep this in facts about surveillance and what it's capable of and pushing that envelope and a lot of what we're doing and what you see, they are capable of. I don't know about the multi-angles and all of that, but we do have the technology; as you all know Google Earth - you look at somebody's house, we do have the technology to look through somebody's house. They use it in Baghdad as we speak, or in Iraq, where you see a heat signature. Where it's going now, or has already gone, I don't know; is that by gathering your genetic information, DNA and all that type of information, they can identify you as opposed to me, so can look at your house from 18 miles above, see your signature, know what your makeup is, know that that's you in the bathroom doing whatever. So in the bombings in London, it wasn't just video surveillance. it was more than just video surveillance - they got the job done. So it does raise a question how far we're willing to go, or is it already too late? Who knows?
Can you compare working with both Tony and Ridley?
Denzel Washington: Ah, I don't know; Tony likes to draw, he's an artist, so he draws a lot of storyboards and all that stuff. Maybe Ridley does too but I don't see them; it feels like he's more seeing what happens on the moment and adjusting, but I don't know what type of preparation. I know Tony more because I've done three films with him; as it will all turn out, we'll see. Obviously Ridley knows what he's doing; he's made some good pictures - it's good working with him.
How would you describe this film, as an action film or a love story?
Denzel Washington: You know, he's got a job to do; it would have been interesting to see had we shot all these scenes of me looking at her first before. I don't know if that would have changed things, but I already kind of got to know her anyway, the woman, the actress, but it may have been different or better or something, or more interesting had I actually shot those other scenes first. Because when I finally saw those scenes, I had never seen them; when I saw them I was like, 'whoa.' Especially that one shot where she looks like she's looking right in my face, with her big face up there, I was like, 'Ok,' because I wasn't so sure. The producers or somebody kept talking about, 'Well, it's a love story.' I'm like, 'I don't know if it's all that,' but that was before those scenes. And then once we did those scenes, I was like, 'Ok, it's a little strange,' but that's what's unique about this film - that he meets someone who's not alive and then he gets to spend four days watching someone. Maybe there are people who do that actually, I didn't think of that, the government does that.
Are you directing any time soon?
Denzel Washington: In March, yeah, a film called The Debaters about a school in 1935 Wiley College - had four hundred students, and they beat everybody in the country in debating. They were just a great little school in a nowhere little town in Texas; they had a teacher and a good debating coach by the name of Mel Tolson, who's considered one of the great African American poets of our time. They had a young 14 year-old freshman on the team by the name of James Farmer, who went on to start the Congress on Racial Equality and was instrumental in the civil rights movement, as instrumental as anyone else. It's an interesting story about a 14 year-old who falls in love with a 20 year-old-girl who doesn't fall in love with him, and about a little team that goes up against the big giant in the country and wins.
Will you star in the movie as well?
Denzel Washington: No.
Why do you like directing?
Denzel Washington: I like the collaboration, I like seeing people do well; I'm loving seeing where Derek Luke is right now, and having something to do with that. I like seeing people do well, so I really plan to direct the rest of my days.
What was it like working with Jim Caviezel?
Denzel Washington: He's intense, he is intense; he's obviously very good and I was kind of surprised - 'Ok, he's investing in the dark side.' He was willing to go the whole way; he's a very spiritual man and a very intense individual, and very good. And it's that same intensity that can be applied to the good side of things or to his character.
Is there an opportunity for humor in American Gangster?
Denzel Washington: That wacky dope dealer, that nutty dope dealer. I don't know, I don't know; we'll see, we didn't do, we'll see.
You can see Denzel's intensity in Déjà Vu when it hits theaters November 22nd; it's rated PG-13. It also stars Adam Goldberg and Val Kilmer.