Oscars Flashback '02: Denzel Makes History

By ROBERT PACE

February 11, 2013

Denzel Washington has established himself as an actor of distinguished caliber. Amid his many dense roles, he put on an Oscar-winning performance as a villain of the 2001 drama Training Day. With the award, he was not only solidified as one of the best actors of a generation but was also engraved in history.

With his Best Actor win for playing the antagonist in Training Day, Washington became the first African-American male to receive the award since Sidney Poitier (Lilies of the Field) in1963.

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That wasn't the only history that Washington made that night.

As he had won his first Oscar more than a decade prior for his supporting role in the Civil War drama Glory, Washington also became the first African-American to win two Oscars.

The always composed actor explains the feat as being part of his conscious decision to only take on quality roles. As he notes, the roles he didn't take on are as integral to his Oscar wins as the roles he took on.

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"I think actors always have the ultimate power, which is the power to say no," he says. "I know one of the reasons I'm standing here today is for the roles that I didn't do, not so much for the roles that I've done.

"It may sound egotistical or whatever, but I think that we do have control over what we do. If you compromise, you will be compromised. I've tried to have a certain level of integrity and credibility in the work that I've done, and [it] pays off on nights like tonight."

While Washington sculpted his image as a superior actor by turning down undesirable roles, the Academy ultimately dishes out awards based on the roles an actor does take. Although he had previously won an Oscar, he didn't expect to win for Training Day.

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"I didn't think it was that type of role and I don't do any role [to win an Oscar]," he asserts. "Certain roles have a certain vibe about them, like a 'Malcolm X' or even 'The Hurricane.' Definitely not 'Training Day,' but...it turned out well."

Washington has a chance to engrave his name deeper into Oscars history with a Best Actor nomination for Flight this year.



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