Man on fire? Nah. To let Denzel Washington tell it, he’s a man out in the cold. The Academy Award winner is looking for a j-o-b.
“Unemployment,” Denzel joked about his next project while at a recent round-table discussion in New York promoting “Man on Fire.” “You got some work you need done around the house?”
Of course the A-list Hollywood actor isn’t really hurting for jobs. He’s gearing up to play a heroin kingpin in the film “Tru Blu.” The drama sees Denzel teaming once again with Antoine Fuqua, who directed him in his Oscar-winning role of Sergeant Alonzo Harris in “Training Day.”
“We’re going to do [’Tru Blu’] around October back here in New York,” Washington said.
Contrary to rumors, Denzel isn’t taking a turn at reprising the role of “Superfly” that Ron O’Neal made famous in the 1970s.
“No,” the actor laughed at the suggestion he would be playing the iconic pimp. “It was an article suggesting I was playing Superfly. The name of the article that was written [about ’Tru Blu’] was titled ’Return of Superfly.’ I ain’t doing the return of Superfly. I’m playing Frank Lucas. It’s based on the life of one of the biggest, most notorious drug dealers in the early ’70s, who some say was worth half a billion dollars and was bigger than the mafia.”
The “Tru Blu” screenplay is partly inspired by a New York magazine article by Mark Jacobson about Lucas’ rise to riches and how he smuggled heroin into the U.S. inside the caskets of soldiers killed in Vietnam. Lucas was pursued by detective Richie Roberts (who will be played by Benicio Del Toro) and eventually aided the authorities in arresting other key players in the drug ring.
Denzel said for him there’s no difference in readying himself to play a hero or a villain like Frank Lucas.
“I don’t put a character in a category and say, ’You must prepare this way because he’s a villain,’ ” he explained. “Hitler probably didn’t think he was a bad guy. You’re taught in acting class to love the character. You have to love who you’re playing. Alonzo in ’Training Day’ was misguided. Everybody else was wrong.”
“He’s tough, because he’s very committed to what he does,” said director Tony Scott, who helmed the Washington films “Man on Fire” and “Crimson Tide.” “Lots of actors talk about doing their homework, but very few of them do. Every morning [before filming ’Man on Fire’] I’d go to his trailer, we’d talk about the day’s shoot and smoke a cigar. [There,] he’s Denzel. When he steps out [of the trailer], he’s John Creasy, a pain in the ass. That’s the nature. Denzel gets locked, there’s nothing that’s going to sidetrack him.”
Denzel also hopes to make another run at directing. He wouldn’t elaborate on the project, but he said if all goes well, he’ll be behind the camera next year.
“I’m not really talking about it because I want to get it right,” said the actor, who directed the 2002 film “Antwone Fisher.” “I’m developing it now. Hopefully we’ll be shooting in the fall of 2005.”
The next Washington flick that will hit the big screen is “The Manchurian Candidate,” due this summer.