Denzel Washington, 61, Says It's Good To Say No Sometimes

Photo by Larry Busacca

Photo by Larry Busacca

The Talks: Do you often have to turn down roles because they typecast you?

Denzel: Absolutely. My career is based on saying no. Sidney Poitier told me many, many years ago that the first four or five movies that you do will determine how you’re perceived in the business. So I was very blessed that the second movie I did was with Norman Jewison, the third movie I did was with Sidney Lumet, and the fourth movie I did was Cry Freedom with Richard Attenborough, for which I was nominated for the first time. I was off to the races. There were other movies that I could have done and I didn’t do.

The Talks: Like which ones?

Denzel: One of them I called “The Nigger They Couldn’t Kill.” It was terrible. They said, “It’s a comedy!” Yeah right. So I didn’t do that. They were going to pay me a lot of money and I really thought about it, but I didn’t do it. I waited and six months later I got Cry Freedom. That’s what I tell young actors. “You don’t have to compromise. Go do some theater and wait.”

Interview via The Talks