Word has been out for a while that Denzel Washington is making another run at directing, and he is now gearing up to do just that — but not for a Sammy Davis Jr. biopic, as has been reported in some media outlets.
Washington, who first stepped behind the camera for 2002’s “Antwone Fisher,” is instead directing “The Great Debaters,” a movie based on a true story about an all-black high school debate team in 1935.
As for the Sammy Davis Jr. movie, Washington will serve in a producer capacity.
“[Producer] Brian Grazer and I bought the rights to a great book and we’re developing the material,” Washington said. “I guess because it was in the paper, everybody thinks I’m directing it.”
That book is Wil Haygood’s biography, “In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr.” Washington has hired Haygood to write the first draft of the script, which will start with Davis at age 4, when he first began singing and dancing with his father on the vaudeville circuit.
“I just like the story,” Washington said. “It’s a different take. It’s not just all through his life. It’s really about the relationship with him and [mentor] Will Maston and his father.”
Washington, who does not plan to appear in the film, wants the spotlight to be on Davis’ offscreen relationships, not with his Rat Pack peers.
Along with the as-yet-untitled Sammy movie, Washington and Grazer are teaming up on the crime drama “Tru Blu,” this time with Washington starring in the movie. Antoine Fuqua, who directed Washington in “Training Day,” is bringing the antihero out in the actor once again. In “Tru Blu,” Washington plays a heroin-kingpin-turned-informant who helps a cop (Benicio Del Toro) bring down his old crew. Filming is scheduled to begin later this month (see “Is Denzel Washington … A: Unemployed, B: A Drug Dealer, Or C: Superfly?” ).
Washington has also signed on to star in “Brothers in Arms,” about the first all-black battalion to see combat in World War II. The movie is based on a book of the same name written by basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anthony Walton.
Although he’s done a number of war movies, including “The Manchurian Candidate” remake in theaters now, the Oscar-winning actor has no qualms about making another.
“War is the most extreme circumstances, and makes for heightened drama,” Washington said.
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