Denzel Washington: ‘Training Day’ wasn’t ‘written for a black guy’

“Training Day” almost looked very different.

The Oscar-winning film, starring Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington as LAPD partners, was first scripted as a “Lethal Weapon” type film, according to lead star Washington.

“I don’t think it was written for a black person,” Washington said of his role in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “It was more like a plaid shirt [wearing] guy with beer bottles behind his back.

Instead, director Antoine Fuqua ushered in a different take for the film. “Antoine is the one who brought in the mobster,” Washington added.

Fuqua later told THR he bonded with Washington for his “raw” performance, similar to the “gangster movies” he watched growing up with his grandmother. “I was excited to put the camera on him,” Fuqua recalled. “On [Denzel’s] first scene, I remember covering Denzel and getting everything I wanted as a director. I felt good there. But I’m this young man and a little nervous. I don’t want to spoil this. So I turned to Denzel and said, ‘Do you want to come and see the monitor to see if you’re happy?’ And Denzel turned to me and said, ‘Dude, you’re flying that plane. Call me when you’re ready,” then got up and left.

Fuqua continued, “Then I looked at Ethan and he gave me a look like ‘Yeah’ and he walked away. It was a confirmation that they trusted me. It gave me the power to really go there.”

Hawke was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 2002 Oscars, while Washington won Best Actor.

And Fuqua’s affinity for gangster movies also fueled his biggest movie regret to date: not directing “American Gangster” also starring Washington.

“It breaks my heart just to say it out loud,” Fuqua admitted. The director left the film over “creative differences” with Universal, and Ridley Scott instead directed the biopic.

“I didn’t know enough then,” Fuqua opened. “I don’t think I navigated the way I should have, or had a full perspective and understanding of the business, like the tax responsibilities and the pressure everyone is under, including the executives. You need to pause and take in the big picture. This one got away from me, and it will always break my heart. It was a chance for me to work again with Denzel in the genre that I grew up with.

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