GOING FOURTH DENZEL WASHINGTON AND SPIKE LEE ON THEIR QUARTET OF MOVIES.
Denzel Washington and Spike Lee have made four movies together, a fact not lost on Lee.
"One more, we catch De Niro and Scorsese," Lee says, at the beginning of a conversation. "I hope we catch them, and I hope we pass them." Their fourth collaboration is "The Inside Man," a heist picture with Washington playing an NYPD detective negotiating with a crew of robbers holed up in a Wall Street bank.
Washington's lawman not only has to deal with a cunning criminal ring leader (Clive Owen) but also with the temptations offered by a mysterious power broker (Jodie Foster) willing to help the detective further his career if he'll compromise his investigation.
"In some respects, it's an homage to Sidney Lumet's 'Dog Day Afternoon,' which is one of my favorite films," Lee says.
Adds Washington: "I was just happy that Spike called. It had been too long since the last time." Here the two men reflect back on the four films they've made together:
MO' BETTER BLUES (1990)
Washington: Looking back on it, it's when I first really began to experiment with improvising. Spike encouraged that. And I was like, "Oh. OK." There was a bit of fear initially. I wasn't used to it.
"Oh, you mean I can throw in anything I want, whenever I want, within the context of the scene?" And that's developed now and reared its ugly head in films like "Training Day" and definitely in "The Inside Man." Just throwing lines in. There's the scene in "The Inside Man" where the Indian man is going on about "I can't get this, I can't get that." And it just came out of my mouth: "But I bet you can get a cab though." As soon as I said it, we just had to hold on to the laugh. When Spike yelled, "Cut," everybody started cracking up and I said, "Yeah. I got a feeling that one's going to make the movie."
Lee: I try to go by intuition. Denzel had been doing heavy (stuff) before this. "Mo' Better" gave him a chance to be the romantic lead.
You gotta give people the chance. Look at Philip Seymour Hoffman.
It's not like he woke up and all of a sudden he had this talent.
Somebody had to give him the chance to be a leading man. Same with Terrence Howard. And "Mo' Better Blues" gave Denzel the opportunity to show another side of his game.
MALCOLM X (1992)
Washington: I did a play in 1981 called "When the Chickens Come Home to Roost." It was about a fictional meeting between Malcolm X and the honorable Elijah Muhammad. It went over like gangbusters down at the Henry Street Settlement (in Manhattan), and we ran the whole summer. So I found out then I could play the part, and when we did the movie 10 or 11 years later, I had the confidence.
Lee: Denzel's performance is one of the great performances of cinema.
What an opportunity for an actor, playing one person, but a person who went through four or five different transformations. Gotta have skills. Which Denzel has.
It was one of the highlights of my life. Because of that film, I met my wife. We still talk to people about that movie almost every day of our lives. Just a minute ago, Denzel told me, "Spike, `Malcolm X' is on TV.' It was on HBO. The life of the film is going to be forever.
Time has only increased its stature.
HE GOT GAME (1998)
Lee: Underrated. It's a sports film on the surface. But you look at the whole father-son relationship, the examination of high-school sports, the examination of student athletes and the exploitation of these kids, kids who are devoting their whole lives to the pipe dream of becoming a professional athlete. We were able to do a lot with that film.
Washington: Spike's movies always have a lot of layers. That's what makes them interesting. "He Got Game" is not a basketball movie.
There's basketball in it, but it's about money and temptation and the way capitalism runs sports in America.
Lee: At the end of the movie, Jake (Washington's character) plays his son, Jesus (portrayed by NBA star Ray Allen), in a basketball game. It was scripted that Jesus was supposed to beat his father 15 to zip.
And Denzel was like, "(Forget) that, man. I don't care what the script says. I gotta score at least one basket." So Denzel had the ball first and he made a couple of lucky shots and Ray called, "Cut. Timeout." He says, "Wait. The script says he's not supposed to score." "I don't care what the script says." So Ray says, "It's on now."
Washington: I just wanted to make some shots. Plus, you know, it was like, "Why not just play?" You knew who was going to win. (Laughs) So let's play the game and see who wins.
Spike called my shots "lucky"? (Washington turns dead serious.) Yeah.
All of them. They were all luck. I'm a lucky guy. As you know, luck is where opportunity makes preparation. So he's right.
THE INSIDE MAN (2006)
Lee: We want a hit. When Denzel says he wants to do something, it gets made. And when Denzel makes something, people come. I'm trying to get the foreign financing for a movie I'm making about Joe Louis.
And finance people look at numbers. If there's one thing they understand, it's if a film makes money. That's not why I made this film because you never know how it's going to turn out. But I'm hoping for a hit.
Washington: I think this will help him get that Joe Louis film made.
This is one of the more "commercial" films he's done. And I think it will be an audience-pleaser. So I think that will help. It is called show business. They don't need to call it "business show." Because, no business, no show. So if we do good business, I think he will have another opportunity to put on a show.
And, yeah, I hope we work together again. Gotta catch up with Bobby and those guys.
Glenn Whipp, (818) 713-3672
Oh c'mon, George
Did you scratch your head when George Clooney used Hattie McDanield's 1939 supporting actress Oscar win as an example of a forward-thinking Academy? You weren't alone.
``Hattie McDaniel played a mammy in `Gone With the Wind,' '' filmmaker Spike Lee says. ``That film was basically saying that the wrong side won the Civil War and that black people should still be enslaved.
``C'mon! I like George a lot. I'm not hating on him. But I don't really think he thought it out. How many years was it between Hattie McDaniel and Halle Berry? Sixty-some-odd? C'mon! To use that as an example of how progressive Hollywood is is ridiculous.''
8 photos, box
(1 -- cover -- color) AN `INSIDER' JOB
Denzel Washington's conflicted cop battles bank robbers and his own ethics in Spike Lee's new heist film
(4) Washington and Cynda Williams in ``Mo' Better Blues''
(5) ``Malcolm X''
(6) Washington and Zelda Harris in ``He Got Game.''
(7) Washington, left, and Lee on the set of their new film, ``Inside Man.''
Oh c'mon, George (see text)
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Mar 19, 2006|
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