top of page

110. How a Poor Boy from New York Suburbs rejected in First Audition and Won Two Oscar Awards..!!

Updated: Jul 26, 2021

Who is Denzel Washington ?

Circa 1975, New York....

Once Upon a time, An Incident happened in a Beauty Shop in New York....!!

With no academic focus, my grades took off in their own direction: down.

My GPA was 1.8 one semester, and the university very politely suggested it might be better to take some time off.

I was 20 years old, at my lowest point.

And then one day—and I remember the exact day: March 27th, 1975—I was helping out in the beauty shop my mother owned in Mount Vernon.

An older woman who belonged to my mother’s church, one of the elders of the town, was in there getting her hair done and kept giving me these strange looks.

She finally took the drier off her head and said something to me I’ll never forget:

“Young boy,” she said. “I have a spiritual prophecy: you are going to travel the world and speak to millions of people.”

Like a wise-ass, I’m thinking to myself: “Does she got anything in that crystal ball about me getting back to college in the fall?”

But maybe she was on to something. Because later that summer, while working as a counselor at a YMCA camp in Connecticut, we put on a talent show for the campers.

After the show, another counselor came up to me and asked: “Have you ever thought of acting? You should. You’re good at that.”

When I got back to Fordham that fall I changed my major once again —for the last time.

And in the years that followed—just as that woman getting her hair done predicted—

I have traveled the world and I have spoken to millions of people through my movies.

Millions who—up ‘till today—I couldn’t see while I was talking to them.

- Denzel Washington, Hollywood Actor

Pic : The Legendary Denzel Washington receiving Oscar Award for Best Actor for Training Day.

Denzel Washington is an Academy award-winning actor, director and producer best-known for his roles in ‘Glory’, ‘Malcolm X’ and ‘The Hurricane’. As an actor, he is known for his penchant for taking on challenging roles and portraying them to perfection.

He has been described as an actor who reconfigured "the concept of classic movie stardom", associating with characters defined by their grace, dignity, humanity, and inner strength.

Growing up in a predominantly African-American suburb, young Denzel had witnessed many of his friends take up the path of drugs, crime and violence. He is certain that he too would have ended up like them had it not been for his mother, a poor single parent, who sent him to Oakland Military Academy to learn some discipline. Determined to make something worthy of his life, the boy completed high school and studied journalism before embarking on a professional acting career. He got his first big break when he was chosen to play the role of Dr. Philip Chandler in the NBC medical drama series, ‘St. Elsewhere’. He played several minor roles in films before ‘Cry Freedom’ happened in 1987.

His portrayal of anti-apartheid social activist Steve Biko established him as a talented character actor. More challenging roles followed and the actor went on to earn several Academy award nominations, winning two of them.

Tom Hanks introduction Speech of Introducing Denzel Washington for Cecil B. DeMille Award during the Golden Globes, calling him “the actor of our generation” with a “legendary and noble” body of work.

“Great cinema lasts forever, and a great actor will forever astound us. Now, these clips will remind us that a single name can be a superlative synonymous with extraordinary,” Hanks said. “A single name can define an artist who is a peer and equal of all of the greatest legends of our craft. If Washington doesn’t ring out loud enough, then let the first name carry all the weight. And that name is Denzel.”

Tom Hanks Introduction Speech at below Link

I. Early Life

Denzel Hayes Washington, Jr. was born in Mount Vernon, New York on December 28, 1954. His parents, beauty salon owner Lennis and Pentecostal minister/municipal worker Denzel Washington, Sr., divorced when Denzel was 14.

After the divorce, Denzel's mother sent him to Oakland Military Academy in New Windsor, New York. The actor would later credit that decision for saving his life. Before leaving for military school, he and his closest friends were heading down a bad path. In an interview with Parade Magazine, Washington said that those friends later went on to serve about 40 years in prison, collectively.

Denzel attended Fordham University in New York City, where he played collegiate basketball. He took a semester off to consider his future and figure out what his major should be. During that time, he spent a summer working at a YMCA camp. Denzel's performance in a camp talent show impressed the campers and his colleagues so much that one suggested he begin acting. When he returned to Fordham that fall, he began studying drama and graduated with a BA in drama and journalism in 1977.

He left A.C.T ( American Conservatory Theater. ) . after only one year to seek work as an actor. His first paid acting role was in a summer stock theater stage production in St. Mary's City, Maryland. The play was "Wings of the Morning", which is about the founding of the colony of Maryland (now the state of Maryland) and the early days of the Maryland colonial assembly (a legislative body). He played the part of a real historical character, Mathias Da Sousa, although much of the dialogue was created. Afterwards he began to pursue screen roles in earnest. With his acting versatility and powerful presence, he had no difficulty finding work in numerous television productions.

He made his first big screen appearance in Carbon Copy (1981) with George Segal. Through the 1980s, he worked in both movies and television and was chosen for the plum role of Dr. Philip Chandler in NBC's hit medical series St. Elsewhere (1982), a role that he would play for six years. In 1989, his film career began to take precedence when he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Tripp, the runaway slave in Edward Zwick's powerful historical masterpiece Glory (1989).

II. Struggles and Failures in Film Industry

Early in Denzel Washington career, he auditioned for a part in a Broadway musical; a perfect role for him, he thought, except for the fact that Denzel didn’t get the job. But here’s the thing about the story. He didn’t quit; he didn’t fall back. Denzel Washington walked out of there to prepare for the next audition, and the next audition, and the next audition. He prayed and prayed, but continued to fail, and fail, and fail, but it didn’t matter because you know what?

There’s an old saying according to Denzel Washington “if you hang around a barbershop long enough, sooner or later you will get a haircut. You will catch a break.”

In 2010 Denzel Washington starred in a play called Fences on Broadway, and he won a Tony Award for his outstanding performance; but here’s the kicker, it was at that Court Theater, the same theater where Denzel Washington failed in his very first audition.

So this begs the question

Do you have guts to fail? Or are you living your life so cautiously that you are not even trying anything new and if that’s the case you have already failed by default according to JK Rowling.

III. Film Career

Washington started his acting career in theatre, acting in performances off-Broadway including William Shakespeare's Coriolanus in 1979. He first gained to prominence in the medical drama St. Elsewhere (1982-1988). Washington's early film roles included Norman Jewison's A Soldier's Story (1984), Richard Attenborough's Cry Freedom (1987).

Through the 1990s, Denzel also co-starred in such big budget productions as The Pelican Brief (1993), Philadelphia (1993), Crimson Tide (1995), The Preacher's Wife (1996), and Courage Under Fire (1996), a role for which he was paid $10 million.

He continued to define his onscreen persona as the tough, no-nonsense hero through the 2000s in films like Out of Time (2003), Man on Fire (2004), Inside Man (2006), and The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009). Cerebral and meticulous in his film work, he made his debut as a director with Antwone Fisher (2002); he also directed The Great Debaters (2007) and Fences (2016). In 2010, Washington headlined The Book of Eli (2010), a post-Apocalyptic drama. Later that year, he starred as a veteran railroad engineer in the action film Unstoppable (2010), about an unmanned, half-mile-long runaway freight train carrying dangerous cargo. The film was his fifth and final collaboration with director Tony Scott, following Crimson Tide (1995), Man on Fire (2004), Déjà Vu (2006) and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. He has also been a featured actor in the films produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and has been a frequent collaborator of director Spike Lee.

In 2012, Washington starred in Flight (2012), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. He co-starred with Ryan Reynolds in Safe House (2012), and prepared for his role by subjecting himself to a torture session that included waterboarding. In 2013, Washington starred in 2 Guns (2013), alongside Mark Ryan Walberg. In 2014, he starred in The Equalizer (2014), an action thriller film directed by Antoine Fuqua and written by Richard Wenk, based on the television series of same name starring Edward Woodward.

During this time period, he also took on the role of producer for some of his films, including The Book of Eli and Safe House. Throughout his career he was regularly praised by critics, and his consistent success at the box office helped to dispel the perception that African American actors could not draw mainstream white audiences.

After starring in director Jonathan Demme’s 2004 update of the 1962 thriller The Manchurian Candidate, Washington reteamed with Lee for the crime drama Inside Man (2006). He later appeared as a drug kingpin opposite Russell Crowe’s determined narcotics officer in American Gangster (2007) and as a dispatcher caught in the middle of a subway train hijacking in Scott’s The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009).

Additionally, Washington directed and appeared in the biographical films Antwone Fisher (2002), about a U.S. serviceman with a troubled past, and The Great Debaters (2007), about an inspirational debate coach at an African American college in the 1930s.

In 2016, he was selected as the recipient for the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards.

Pic : Denzel Washington, accepting his award for best male actor in a leading role, at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

As commanding a presence as his onscreen personas suggest, Mr. Washington, who is 62, also carries a hint of the absent-minded professor. This is the same fellow, after all, who showed up to accept a lifetime achievement award at last year’s Golden Globes having forgotten both his speech and his glasses.

But Hollywood adores Mr. Washington, who, armed with charisma and that killer smile, effortlessly charmed the Globes crowd anyway.

Top 10 Denzel Washington Movies can be accessed at :

Denzel Washington 's net worth is valued at $250 million as of 2021.

IV. Critical International Acclaims and Accolades

“Washington is one of the nation’s preeminent performing artists, having achieved wide acclaim for his film, theatrical and television performances, as well as his accomplishments in film directing and television production.

Denzel Henzel Washington describes himself as “that minority among minorities—a working black actor.” Indeed, in an era that offers few opportunities for black men—especially in feature films— Washington has forged a solid career with a string of highly-regarded performances. Chicago Tribune correspondent Hilary de Vries wrote: “From his smoldering Private Peterson in A Soldier’s Story to the coolly understated Steve Biko in Cry Freedom to the defiant Civil War infantryman Trip in Glory, Washington creates morally complex characters shaded by wit, intelligence and barely concealed anger.”

The critic added that Washington “is riding a series of cinematic successes that are not only buoying his own career but also helping shape the role of black Americans in Hollywood.”

An actor blessed with good looks and a wide range of talent, Washington has chosen his roles with care. Washington Post contributor Donna Britt noted: “It’s ironic that this man whose race almost certainly has diminished his opportunities as an actor has used his career to explore his blackness.”

V.Awards and Honors

In 1988, Washington received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in the anti-Apartheid film Cry Freedom, and in 1989, he won that same award for his performance in Glory.

In 1992, he received a Best Actor nomination for his performance in Malcolm X, and in 1999, he was nominated again and also won a Golden Globe for The Hurricane. In 2002, he finally won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Training Day, becoming only the second African-American actor to win Best Actor. That year, he also appeared in the Disney football drama Remember the Titans, which earned over $100 million at the box office and garnered him a Black Reel Award and an NAACP Image Award, both for Best Actor. In 2016, Denzel was presented with the Cecil B. Demille Lifetime Achievement Award at the Golden Globe Awards.

Pic : Denzel with Nelson Mandela

Although he never finished graduate school, the actor has received three honorary doctorate degrees. The first was in 1991 from his alma mater, Fordham University, for having "impressively succeeded in exploring the edge of his multi-faceted talent." In 2007 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humanities from Morehouse College, and in 2011, the University of Pennsylvania bestowed him with an honorary Doctor of Arts degree.

1. Denzel Washington Wins Best Actor: 2002 Oscars

2. Denzel Washington Wins Supporting Actor: 1990 Oscars

He has frequently collaborated with directors Spike Lee, Antoine Fuqua, and Tony Scott. He has earned various awards including two Oscar Academy Awards,

In 2020, The New York Times ranked him as the greatest actor of the twenty-first century.

In Total , Won 2 Oscars. Another 84 wins & 178 nominations and List of Awards and Nominations can be accessed at :

V. Directing and Producing Career

In 2002, Washington stepped behind the camera to direct Antwone Fisher; he has since directed The Great Debaters (2007) and Fences (2016). He has also produced several movies, including The Book of Eli and The Equalizer, and several television programs

Pic : Denzel with Oprah Winfrey

VI . Personal Life

Denzel's first movie, the made-for-television sports drama Wilma, brought him more than a career break; he also met his wife while working on the set. He married Pauletta Pearson in 1983 and the couple went on to have four children.

As a devout Christian, Washington has considered becoming a preacher, even wondering if he should leave acting to pursue a life in the church. Luckily for his fans, he has decided to stay in Hollywood, but he says that he still reads the Bible every day.

In 2006, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia asked for help from a group of American artists and intellectuals including Denzel Washington, Oliver Stone, and Michael Moore. They implored the group to help convince then-president George W. Bush to release 600 imprisoned rebels in exchange for 62 hostages being held in Colombia.

Washington is not particularly forthcoming about his private life, but his family is very important to him. In his rare moments of leisure he stays home, avoiding the celebrated Hollywood party circuit. In the Washington Post, the actor called his wife and children “the base that keeps me solid.” He added: “Acting is just a way of making a living.

Family is life. When you experience a child, you know that’s life.” The actor is careful to keep a humble perspective on the praise he has received, and he completely refuses to consider himself “sexy” despite persistent claims in the press. Acting, he said, is a way for him to explore the spiritual self, irrespective of race or creed. “I enjoy acting,” he told the Washington Post.“This is when I feel most natural. This is really my world. I was obviously destined to get into this, and I guess I have the equipment to do it.

He lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife, Pauletta Washington, and their four children.

Pic : Denzel Washington with Family at Golden Globe Awards

VII. Denzel Washington Reveals His Struggle With Diversity in Hollywood - 19th December 2016, Yahoo News

On Sunday’s 60 Minutes, Denzel Washington discussed his career and how even he has struggled with Hollywood’s lack of diversity. “I’ve heard everything,” he said. “And what I hear keeps changing because they used to say it didn’t sell over here, and it does. Then they said it doesn’t sell in the South and it does. Well, it doesn’t sell in Europe, and it does.”

He even addressed the Oscars So White controversy from the 2016 Academy Awards, saying, “I don’t have to think about it. I’ve lived it. I’ve been the guy at the Oscars without my name being called. I’ve been the guy at the Oscars when my name is called. I’ve been the guy at the Oscars when everybody thought they was gonna call my name, and they didn’t. I’ve lived it.”

However, the Academy Award-winning actor pushes through setbacks, saying,

“Just do the best you can do.”

VIII. Denzel Washington Commencement Speeches

1. Actor and director Denzel Washington encourages graduates at the University of Pennsylvania’s 255th Commencement.

“Nothing In Life Is Worthwhile Unless You Take Risks”

Video Link of this Speech

Important Portion of Transcript of the Speech :

Nelson Mandela said:

“There is no passion to be found playing small—in settling for a life that’s less than the one you’re capable of living.”

I’m sure in your experiences—in school… in applying to college… in picking your major… in deciding what you want to do with life—people have told you to make sure you have something to “fall back on.”

But I’ve never understood that concept, having something to fall back on.

If I’m going to fall, I don’t want to fall back on anything, except my faith. I want to fall… forward.

At least I figure that way I’ll see what I’m about to hit.

Fall forward.

Here’s what I mean:

Reggie Jackson struck out twenty-six-hundred times in his career—the most in the history of baseball.

But you don’t hear about the strikeouts. People remember the home runs.

Fall forward.

Thomas Edison conducted 1,000 failed experiments. Did you know that?

I didn’t either—because #1,001 was the light bulb.

Fall forward.

Every failed experiment is one step closer to success.

You’ve got to take risks. And I’m sure you’ve probably heard that before.

But I want to talk about why it’s so important.

I’ve got three reasons—and then you can pick up your iPhones.

First… you will fail at some point in your life. Accept it. You will lose. You will embarrass yourself. You will suck at something. There is no doubt about it.

That’s probably not a traditional message for a graduation ceremony. But, hey, I’m telling you—embrace it.

Because it’s inevitable.

And I should know: In the acting business, you fail all the time.

Early in my career, I auditioned for a part in a Broadway musical. A perfect role for me, I thought—except for the fact that I can’t sing....

I didn’t get the job.

But here’s the thing: I didn’t quit. I didn’t fall back.

I walked out of there to prepare for the next audition, and the next audition, and the next one......!!

Here’s my second point about failure:

If you don’t fail… you’re not even trying.

My wife told me this great expression: “To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.”

Les Brown, a motivational speaker,

made an analogy about this. He says, “Imagine you’re on your deathbed—and standing around your bed are the ghosts representing your unfilled potential. The ghosts of the ideas you never acted on. The ghosts of the talents you didn’t use. And they’re standing around your bed. Angry. Disappointed. Upset.

They say “We came to you because you could have brought us to life,” they say. “And now we have to go to the grave together.”

So I ask you today: How many ghosts are going to be around your bed when your time comes?

2. Commencement Speech at Dillard University - 2015

7 May 2015, Dillard University, Louisiana, USA

Pic : Dillard University 2015 Commencement Address | Denzel Washington

Video Link of this Speech

Important Portion of Transcript of the Speech

Number one : Put God first.

Put God first in everything you do. Everything that you think you see in me. Everything that I’ve accomplished, everything that you think I have – and I have a few things. Everything that I have is by the grace of God. Understand that.

Number Two : Fail Big.

That’s right. Fail big. Today is the beginning of the rest of your life and you can be just – it’s going to be very frightening. And it’s a new world out there, it’s a mean world out there. And you only live once, so do what you feel passionate about,

Take chances professionally, don’t be afraid to fail, there is an old IQ test that was nine dots and you had to draw five lines with the pencil within these nine dots without lifting the pencil..

The only way to do it was to go outside the box. So don’t be afraid to go outside the box. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

Don’t be afraid to fail big, to dream big. But remember, dreams without goals, are just dreams. And they ultimately fuel disappointment.

So have dreams, but have goals — life goals, yearly goals, monthly goals, daily goals. I try to give myself a goal every day, sometimes just to not curse somebody out. Simple goals but have goals.

And understand that to achieve these goals, you must apply discipline and consistency. In order to achieve your goals, you must apply discipline which you’ve already done, and consistency every day, not just one Tuesday and just a two days, you have to work at it.

Every day you have to plan, every day you heard the saying, we don’t plan to fail, we fail to plan. Hard work works. Working really hard is what successful people do. And in this text tweet, twerk world that you’ve grown up in, remember just because you’re doing a lot more doesn’t mean you’re getting a lot more done.

Remember that. Just because you’re doing a lot more, doesn’t mean you’re getting a lot more done. Don’t confuse movement with progress.

Number Three : You 'll Never See A U-Haul Behind a Hearse

I’ll say it again, you’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse. I don’t care how much money you make, you can't take it with you. The Egyptians tried it, they got robbed. That’s all they got. You can’t take it with you, with you.

And it’s not how much you have – it’s what you do, with what you have. We all have different talents, some of you’ll be doctors, some lawyers, some scientists, some educators, some nurses, some teachers. Yeah, okay. Some preachers.

The most selfish thing you can do in this world is help someone else. Why is this selfish, because the gratification, the goodness that comes to you, the good feeling, the good feeling that I get from helping others, nothing’s better than that.

Well one of two things but, nothing’s better than that, not – not jewelry, not big house I have, not big cars, but it’s the joy; that’s where the joy is, in helping others. That’s where the success is in helping others.

IX. Philanthropy

Denzel Washington hasn't just kept his fame and large paychecks to himself; he has given his support – both financial and personal – to a number of worthy organizations.

He has been the spokesperson for the Boys & Girls Club of America since 1993 and served on its board since 1995.

He has contributed substantial sums to Nelson Mandela's Children's Fund, Fordham University, the Fisher House Foundation, and Wiley College etc.

Pic : Denzel with President Obama

X. Denzel Wahington Videos :

  1. Chadwick Boseman: “There is no BLACK PANTHER without Denzel Washington”

2. Denzel Washington Inspirational Speech 2021 - Watch this Everyday and change your life .

3. Denzel Washington (Morgan Freeman Tribute) - 2008 Kennedy Center Honors

4. Denzel Washington Wins Best Actor: 2002 Oscars

5. Julia Roberts Tribute to Denzel Washington | AFI 2019 | TNT


Denzel Washington was born and raised in New York Poor Suburbs, Went on to Stun the Hollywood Film Industry by winning Two Oscar Awards, Tony Award , Golden Globe Award , Countless Other Awards , Nominations and International Acclaims in his Tough Journey in Hollywood inspite of sevral Odds and Obstacles on the Way...!!

Washington went to Fordham University, but he proved to be a poor student initially. After taking some time away from college, he returned to the university with a new interest in acting and graduated with a B.A. in Drama and Journalism in 1977. Washington later won a scholarship to the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, and afterward worked with the Shakespeare in the Park ensemble.

Washington admits that he has felt stifled by the “role model” and “torch bearer” tags by which critics identify him, but at the same time he is a dedicated artist seeking to make an impression. “All I can do is play the part,” he told the Washington Post. “I can’t do [a] part for 40 million black people, or orange or green. On the other hand I’m not going to do anything to embarrass my people.”

This is a Fascinating Story of Poor Boy to Legendary Hollywood Actor, Whose Body of work is worth studying and following Generation after Generation in every Film Industry across the World from Hollywood to Bollywood, then on to Nollywood etc.

Denzel Washington set up a Very High Standards of Acting with Razor Precision , which will Echo and Astound us Forever...!!

Denzel Washington's Life is Highly Inspirational and Worth Emulating as how he reached Peaks and Pinnacles in life from such Humble Beginings and will Remain as a Shining Star in Hollywood Film Industry Forever...!!

MM Rao


Sources :

71 views0 comments


bottom of page