Denzel Washington Trained With Bruce Lee’s Disciple For ‘The Book Of Eli’ Fight Scenes

The last time we saw Denzel Washington on screen, he was sporting a gut and a sweater vest as a lowly subway dispatcher in “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3.” When MTV News caught up with the Oscar-winner last June, though, he happily declared of his paunch, “It’s gone now!”

Why? The 55-year-old had to get into serious fighting shape for his starring role in “The Book of Eli,” a post-apocalyptic western in which he busts skulls and attempts to save humanity in the midst of an anarchic wasteland.

“I’m knocking dudes around in this one,” the actor said proudly when we chatted with him again at last year’s Comic-Con.

Denzel actually trained with one of Bruce Lee’s disciples to learn fight techniques and get into the type of shape that would allow him to be a believable action hero. Because as directors Allen and Albert Hughes told us, their star did all his own stunt work.

“A lot of actors say they do their own stunts,” Allen said. “Taking to another level, Denzel said he wanted to do all the fighting himself and what we devised was doing a lot of the stuff in one shot, no cuts. So it was very organic.”

“We wanted the audience to feel like everything was in real time, no slow motion when the violence went down,” added Albert. “And for the audience, subconsciously or consciously, to know that it was Denzel doing all the work. In one scene when Denzel encounters Gary [Oldman], it was a 360 degree camera move and Denzel fighting like 18 guys. It was a very complicated fight, but I think in the end fans will appreciate it because it’s him.”

Though “Eli” is new territory for the Hughes brothers—still best known for their debut film, “Menace II Society”—they took the same approach to the violence in that 1993 film as they did in their latest.

“What we’ve been trying to do since our first movie, is to ground the violence in reality and still make it exciting for the audience, but not going way over the top,” Albert said.