Washington appears on the cover of Entertainment Weekly with costar Russell Crowe, where they discuss their gritty crime epic American Gangster. The film, which is generating Oscar buzz, follows real-life Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas (Washington) and the efforts of a cop, Richie Roberts (Crowe), who wants to bring him down. Both actors initially turned down their roles, but agreed to do it on the hope of working with director Ridley Scott and one another.
Washington stars in and directs a trio of young actors in The Great Debaters. The period drama is a true story about an African-American debating squad that takes on Harvard. "In every breath, in every shot, I can feel [Denzel]," Oprah Winfrey, who produced the film, says. At the NAACP Image Awards, the film is named best film, Washington is honored as best actor, and costar Jurnee Smollett is cited as best actress.
In the remake of 1974's The Taking of Pelham 123, Washington stars as a New York subway employee who squares off against train hijacker John Travolta. Though the onscreen heavyweights rarely share screen time, the actor tells Entertainment Tonight, "He was always off-camera in a room on a mic, so we always heard John. We had to do it that way because…you want to be there for the other person."
Washington plays Troy Maxson in the Broadway revival of August Wilson's Fences, opposite Viola Davis. The New York Times says the actors – who both win Tony Awards for their "vibrantly acted" performances – "generate shiver-making heat and pathos" as a couple. In November, Washington returns to the big screen in the action flick Unstoppable with Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson.
Washington scores his sixth Oscar nomination for his turn as airline pilot William "Whip" Whitaker, whose act of heroism is tarnished by his struggle to stay sober. "I hope people say we haven't seen Denzel like that," he says of the conflicted character. "He is a complicated man. It's a complicated movie. You can't just stand on one side or the other."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): The Weinstein Company; Columbia Pictures; Jessica Rinaldi/Landov; Paramount Pictures