“Training Day” almost looked a whole lot different.
The Oscar-winning film, starring Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington as LAPD partners, at first was scripted as a “Lethal Weapon”-type movie, according to lead star Washington.
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“I don’t think it was written for a Black guy,” Washington said of his role in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “It was more like a plaid shirt [wearing] guy with beer bottles in the back.”
Instead, director Antoine Fuqua ushered in different takes for the film. “Antoine was the one that brought gangster to it,” Washington added.
Fuqua later told THR that he connected with Washington over his “raw” performance, similar to the “gangster movies” he had watched growing up with his grandmother. “I was excited to put the camera on him,” Fuqua remembered. “We [Denzel’s] very first scene, I remember covering Denzel and I got everything I wanted as a director. I felt good about it. But I’m this young guy and a little nervous. I don’t want to screw this up. So I turned to Denzel and said, ‘You want to come to the monitor to take a look to see if you’re happy?’ And Denzel turned to me and said, ‘Man, you’re flying this plane. Call me when you’re ready,’ and then got up and walked away.”
Fuqua continued, “Then I looked at Ethan and he gave me a look like, ‘Yep,’ and he walked away. It was a confirmation that they trusted me. It empowered me to really go for it.”
Hawke was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the 2002 Oscars, while Washington won for Best Actor.
And Fuqua’s affinity for gangster films also informed his biggest filmmaking regret to date: not helming “American Gangster” also starring Washington.
“It breaks my heart just to say it out loud,” Fuqua admitted. The director exited the film over “creative differences” with Universal, and Ridley Scott instead helmed the biopic.
“I didn’t know enough then,” Fuqua opened up. “I don’t think I navigated it the way I should have, or had a full perspective and understanding of the business, like the fiscal responsibilities and the pressure that everyone’s under, including the executives. You do have to pause and take in the big picture. That one got away from me, and that will always break my heart. That was a chance for me to work with Denzel again in the genre that I grew up loving.”
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