Denzel Washington Says 'Equalizer 3' Will Be His Last One, Confirms 'Gladiator' Sequel (Exclusive)

The actor is reprising his iconic role as the justice-driven Robert McCall in the franchise's final film.

Denzel Washington is stepping into some familiar shoes for his new project. The 68-year-old reprises his role as the justice-driven Robert McCall for The Equalizer 3, the final entry in the film adaptation of the '80s television series of the same name.

The Equalizer films star Washington as a retired U.S. Marine and former DIA officer, whose desire to dole out justice in his own way and help those being oppressed often pulls him back into dangerous missions. The first premiered in theaters in 2014 and the second in 2018. 

"It's unfinished business," Washington tells ET when asked what inspired his return to the film series at 2023's CinemaCon. "You know, the doormen in my building in New York, they love this guy. I talk to them about other films [and] they're like, 'Oh yeah, Fences, yeah, good movie. But when is the next [Equalizer?]' I'm like, 'Why do you love him?' He says, 'Cause he can get the people we can't get, you know? He's the equalizer. He goes and gets revenge on those who need more than a good talking to.' So, I'm just the guy for the job."

Equalizer 3 has a similar plot as its predecessors, following Washington's McCall as he struggles to reconcile the horrific things he's done in the past and finds a strange solace in serving justice on behalf of the oppressed. Finding himself surprisingly at home in Southern Italy, he discovers his new friends are under the control of local crime bosses. As events turn deadly, McCall knows what he has to do: become his friends' protector by taking on the mafia.

Sonia Ben Ammar, Remo Girone and Gaia Scodellaro star in the film alongside Washington -- as well as Dakota Fanning.

As fun as the actor has had reuniting with director Antoine Fuqua -- for the fifth time -- and Fanning -- for the first time in 18 years -- he's adamant that Equalizer 3 is his final time stepping into the proverbial ring as Robert McCall. 

"This is the end for me. It may not be the end, they may do another one, but it's the end for me," he tells ET, joking that even a "massive check" wouldn't sway him. "Never say never, but you never know..."

Fuqua shares that he and Washington never really thought of the films "as a franchise," but rather tackling each project as its own entity each time they came together.

"It was just [the] same conversation we had [for] one and two. We never thought about it as a franchise, it's a film on its own. It's a part of a franchise, but it's a film on its own," he explains, later adding that they didn't even speak about how the previous films relate to the third movie. "So we dealt with it that way. That's what we talked about. Just this film, we don't talk about one and two. [They're] done." 

That explains why the duo jokes they can't even recall McCall's kill count at this point. "What is the population of Italy? He's killed more than strands of spaghetti in a decent pasta, than grains of rice in a mean risotto," Washington says, laughing. 

At least all those fictional missions went to a good cause! During their panel at CinemaCon, Fuqua presented Washington with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in movies. The director took the opportunity to note the actor's two Oscar wins and nine nominations, praising his friend's skill for playing characters with a "sense of dignity and honor and morals."

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for CinemaCon

"One has to have lived a lifetime in order to get an achievement award for a lifetime. So, I'm happy to still be here in this lifetime to achieve the Lifetime Achievement Award," Washington says when asked about the honor. 

Fugua adds that it was an "incredible" honor to present his collaborator with the trophy, adding, "[It's] more than deserved, you know? It's a beautiful trophy but what he's given to the industry, to the people... No trophy, no matter what it is, could really amount to that." 

Meanwhile, Washington has another highly anticipated project in the works -- the actor will star in Ridley Scott's sequel to his Oscar Best Picture winner, Gladiator, for Paramount.

Paul Mescal is also on board to star opposite Washington, with Scott returning to the director’s chair. Mescal will play Lucius, the son of Lucilla (Connie Nielsen), who was a child in the first film. He was saved by Russell Crowe's Roman general-turned-gladiator, Maximus, which left a strong impression on the young boy.

Washington’s role is being kept under wraps.

When asked about the film, Washington shares that he's "on my way to Gladiator land."

"I'm in that gym lifting weights every day, training, getting ready," he adds. 

In the meantime, fans can get ready to check out The Equalizer 3 when it premieres in theaters on Sept. 1.