Denzel Washington is an award-winning actor, director, and producer with a lengthy and varied resume of projects. He’s primarily seen critical acclaim in biographical roles such as Steve Biko in Cry Freedom, Malcolm X in Malcolm X, and poet and educator Melvin B. Tolson in The Great Debaters. Now he is taking on the role of Roman J. Israel in the legal drama titled Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Screen Rant got a chance to talk with Denzel Washington on press day, where we discussed what it attracted him to work on Roman J. Israel Esq., whether or not the character is on the autism spectrum, and whether or not the rumors about Warner Bros. wanting him to play Lex Luthor are true.
SR: You’re known for having great intuition in picking your roles and a lot of the films you make, a lot of the films you’re in, are had other times the progressive message. What was it that attracted you to Roman J. Israel Esq.?
Denzel Washington: Just a good, really, unusual script. Nothing that I… I hadn’t read anything like this. Things like this, we haven’t seen anything like this! Yeah! You know, so characters like this don’t come along. I was like what? I got to meet Dan just to find out what was he thinking. You know, so it was… I hadn’t read anything like it. I knew Dan’s work from Nightcrawler and I didn’t know so I sat down with him. We had a two-hour meeting out there by Central Park in New York and I said I’m in. I wanted to find out I want to find out who this guy is and what makes him tick. You know, which led to a lot of the development of the character, and the hair, and the glass and all of that. But not just that but what makes him tick. Why does he still have this burning passion?
SR: Right. You know, I love the film, by the way. One of the things I noticed you immerse yourself in this role. There are small things. Small little choices like he hikes his pants up when he runs or you know?
Denzel Washington [Laughing]
SR: What inspired some of that stuff?
Denzel Washington: The universal stems from the specific. And he’s, you know, you build it and it is who he is. I mean, he’s a slob as he says and the clues are there. I mean Dan wrote he said, “I don’t pay much attention to my personal administration,” or whatever he says. He’s committed to the law and he knows all the law, by heart how the heck do you get to do that? Is that is that from memory or is it just that bright? So, I think there’s a level of him being on the spectrum.
SR: That’s what I was going to ask you as well.
Denzel Washington: Yeah. No question. I mean, that’s that’s what I decided. Dan didn’t put that in the script. He didn’t say he was but from all the clues that the script was giving me, that’s what I thought.
SR: Yeah, Dan also mentioned that you guys brought in a specialist to help with Asperger’s and stuff like that. How much of that inspired some of the stuff…
Denzel Washington: Well, you know, you go online and you can… there’s all kinds of videos and you know, I just got into that world, man. Just kept going and one book led to another. People who try, what they call mimic neurotypical behavior and some a clumsy and yet they’re great at this. They can’t read. Expressions or you know, their social skills some a better, some aren’t. There’s no one way of looking at it and all of that, and I like research, man. I get into it and you start heading down a road, and you don’t even think about it. It wasn’t like oh I’ll hike my pants up here, you know. They were probably falling down.
SR: You know, the last question I have for you, switching gears for a second, there was a huge rumor going around back awhile ago, that I Warner Bros. was interested in you playing Lex Luthor in the Superman movie.
Denzel Washington: Really?
SR: Yeah. Was there any…
Denzel Washington: I never heard that.
SR: You never heard that?
Denzel Washington: No, Me?!
SR: Yeah! You would’ve been great!
Denzel Washington: I never heard. Well, what happened?
SR: I don’t know!
Denzel Washington: I never heard that. I’ve never heard until just now. Where’d you hear it?
SR: Online [Laughs]
Denzel Washington: Oh, of course you believe everything you hear.[Laughs] No. I never I’ve never heard that until just now.
SR: Oh, interesting. Well, pleasure…
Denzel Washington: BUT, I am.. Naw [Laughs]
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