Denzel's Directorial Debut Premieres

updated 11/12/2002 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/12/2002 01:00PM

This year's Best Actor Oscar winner Denzel Washington has stretched his creative legs and unveiled his first film as a director, Variety reports.

At a Hollywood screening late last week, Washington, 47, told the audience "enjoy the movie," as he introduced his fact-based "The Antwone Fisher Story," which also marks the movie debut of Derek Luke in the leading role. The film opens nationwide Dec. 20.

Washington, who won his Oscar for his crooked cop role in "Training Day," also has a small role in "Fisher," as a naval psychiatrist who tries to help Fisher, a young sailor. Initially refusing to cooperate with the therapist, the young man eventually breaks down and reveals a horrific childhood as an orphan. Dr. Davenport (Washington) guides the patient through his troubled past so that he might track down the family he never knew.

The film's costar, Joy Bryant, praised Washington's directorial abilities, telling Variety that he urged his cast to "just be real" and "stressed the importance of 'not acting' but of being, of exuding your character, and thereby being true to Antwone's story."

The real Fisher, 43, a former security guard at Sony Pictures, wrote the screenplay, and as Washington told The New York Times about its earliest draft (the story was published last year as a book called "Finding Fish"): "What I read the first time from him, I mean there are tears still on the pages. Whether it was a screenplay or whatever, it was the truth."

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