Wash­ing­ton, Davis be­come in­stant Os­car fron­trun­ners in ‘Fences’

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Den­zel Wash­ing­ton’s big-screen adap­ta­tion of Au­gust Wil­son’s “Fences” has ar­rived, and it’s an Os­car player to reckon with this year. But that’s hardly a sur­prise for a project based on Pulitzer Prize-win­ning source ma­te­rial that has landed ma­jor Tony Awards in two sep­a­rate Broad­way pro­duc­tions. The film un­spooled for in­dus­try au­di­ences Satur­day, screen­ing in West­wood be­fore a crowd that in­cluded Screen Ac­tors Guild nom­i­nat­ing com­mit­tee mem­bers, Academy vot­ers and press. Wash­ing­ton was on hand for a post-screen­ing Q& A mod­er­ated by Va­ri­ety’s Jenelle Riley, along with co-stars Vi­ola Davis, Stephen McKin­ley Hen­der­son, Jo­van Adepo, Rus­sell Hornsby, Mykelti Wil­liamson and Saniyya Sid­ney.

When asked what drew him to the role of Troy Max­son, Wash­ing­ton let loose a chuckle and quipped, “The role of Troy Max­son.” In­deed, when pro­ducer Scott Rudin first sent him the script for the film, which Wil­son had penned him­self, Wash­ing­ton wasn’t in­ter­ested in div­ing into it as a movie im­me­di­ately. He wanted to work through the ma­te­rial on the stage first, which led to Rudin rais­ing the money for the 2010 Broad­way re­vival. “Au­gust Wil­son wrote a mas­ter­piece,” Wash­ing­ton said. “It’s one of the great plays of all time. It’s the gift that keeps on giv­ing and as we found out, it works as a film as well. ”Wash­ing­ton had di­rected Davis pre­vi­ously, in the 2002 film “Ant­wone Fisher.” The ac­tress said she con­sid­ers her­self “a friend and a fan,” and spoke about how easy Wash­ing­ton made things for her and the other ac­tors.

Fright­en­ing state­ment

“The two things he said to us be­fore we started was, ‘Re­mem­ber the love,’ and the sec­ond thing he said, which is a fright­en­ing state­ment for ac­tors, was, ‘Trust me”-and we did,” Davis said. “A lot of peo­ple don’t know what to say to ac­tors to un­lock it. A lot of times they know what to do to keep it in there, and make you afraid, but not Den­zel. He’s a great leader. And he’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary man. He’s a man of God and a man of great in­tegrity, and I think it shows in his work.”

Re­views of the film are cur­rently em­bar­goed un­til De­cem­ber, but it’s fair to at least note that both Wash­ing­ton and Davis have now charged ahead in their re­spec­tive Os­car races. The crowd cer­tainly seemed to agree with that sen­ti­ment, greet­ing the whole team with an en­thu­si­as­tic stand­ing ova­tion and threat­en­ing to blow the roof off when Davis was in­tro­duced. Wash­ing­ton’s per­for­mance, to start, is in­fused with the same bravado and en­ergy that brought him a Tony six years ago. It’s in­cred­i­bly lay­ered, maybe even ca­reer-best work. He feels like the odds-on fron­trun­ner in the lead ac­tor cat­e­gory, and as laid out in a re­cent col­umn, it seems to be him and “Manch­ester by the Sea” star Casey Af­fleck lead­ing the pack: two strik­ingly dif­fer­ent per­for­mances that nev­er­the­less fea­ture in­ter­est­ing par­al­lels.

But three Os­cars? Only six ac­tors have ever done it. Wash­ing­ton’s pre­vi­ous wins came for “Glory” (best sup­port­ing ac­tor in 1989) and “Train­ing Day” (best ac­tor in 2001), but this per­for­mance tow­ers over them both. And in a year al­ready set to hold the #Os­carsSoWhite sen­ti­ment at bay with con­tenders like “Fences,” “Hid­den Fig­ures,” “Moon­light” and-if it man­ages some sup­port ”The Birth of a Na­tion,” what a mo­ment it would be for Wash­ing­ton to be­come just the sev­enth ac­tor on a list that in­cludes Ingrid Bergman, Wal­ter Bren­nan, Daniel Day-Lewis, Katharine Hep­burn, Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. As for Davis, the Academy can prob­a­bly go ahead and en­grave the statue. Due re­spect and ap­pre­ci­a­tion to Michelle Wil­liams, Naomie Har­ris, Nicole Kid­man and the rest of this year’s sup­port­ing ac­tress con­tenders, who give ex­cep­tional per­for­mances and will rightly be in the thick of the con­ver­sa­tion-but this race just ended.

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