Happy Birthday Denzel
Today the incredible actor Denzel Washington turns 59. As a way to celebrate his birthday, The Writer’s Journey was kind enough to let me do a small post celebrating his greatest roles in sports films. Denzel is nothing short of amazing in every role he’s in, but he seems to gravitate towards military, sports, or law enforcement based films. Obviously he knows these are the roles he excels in, so by all means, Denzel, please continue. That said, there are three major sports movies that Denzel has starred in: He Got Game, The Hurricane, and, of course, Remember the Titans. Let’s take a look at these great films and how Denzel was able to perform so amazingly in all of them.
His first of these three noteworthy roles came in 1998 when he starred as Jake Shuttlesworth in He Got Game. In this role he plays the father of a high school basketball star who is serving time in prison for accidentally killing his wife during an argument. His son, Jesus, is being courted by every major university to come play basketball for him. It turns out that the New York governor really wants Jesus to play for his alma mater “Big State”, so much so that he is willing to release Jake from prison early if he manages to convince his son to sign with them.
In order for this to happen, the governor orders Jake released from prison for a week to convince Jesus to sign with Big State. During their first encounter after his release, Jesus refers to his father as a “stranger” and tells his sister to kick him out of their house. Slowly the two of them repair their relationship as Jake continues to push Jesus into signing with Big State. Jesus is resistant and Jake confesses the deal he struck with the governor. The two of them decide to leave it up to a game of one-on-one to decide who Jake will sign for.
In 1999 Denzel took on the role of former middleweight champion boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter in The Hurricane. The film was based on Carter’s real life experience of being wrongly convicted of a triple murder in the 1960’s, a crime for which he served twenty years. As Carter, Washington explores the cultural climate that allowed for an African-American man to be wrongly convicted for a triple murder based on the testimony of two other suspects in the crime. Eventually the two suspects recanted their testimony 8 years later, but Carter was convicted again. A Brooklyn teen, Lesra Martin, who was convinced of Carter’s innocence after reading his autobiography, gets his Canadian foster family to campaign for Carters release. Eventually, in 1985, Carter was declared innocent in a Federal District Court and set free. For his portrayal of such injustice Washington was nominated for an Academy Award and became the second African-American man to win the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, 36 years after Sidney Poitier won the first.
Perhaps Washington’s most well-known sports film was 2000’s Remember the Titans in which he plays the new head football coach at T.C. William High School in Alexandria, Virginia. This was another film based on a true story that intertwines athletics with the civil rights struggles America faces during the middle of the 20th century. In the film, Washington’s Herman Boone ousts the current head coach, Bill Yoast, who is now the assistant coach. The segregated high school has just opened its doors to African-Americans and racial tensions on the team are high. To make matters worse, the school board informs Boone that if he loses one game, he will be fired. He manages to bring the team together despite their cultural differences and they go undefeated that season and make it to the region playoffs. In the meantime Yoast is informed he will be appointed to the Coaching Hall of Fame, but only if the Titans lose a game. At the playoff game the referees are making one bad call after another during every play the Titans make. Yoast approaches them and tells them he will expose them even if that means he won’t get his slot in the Hall of Fame. The Titans go on to win that game, and the state championships.
While Denzel hasn’t starred in a sports film since Remember the Titans in 2000, he is reportedly going to be back with another sports film in 2015. He is adapting the play Fences for the big screen where he will play the part of a former baseball player who was never able to make it into the big leagues. The film promising to be another powerful vehicle for this incredibly talented actor. With that, happy birthday Denzel, we hope to see you on the big screens for many more years to come!
About the Author: Spencer Blohm is a freelance entertainment, lifestyle, and pop culture blogger for Direct-Ticket.net. He lives and works in Chicago where he is pursuing his lifelong dream of becoming a polar bear this winter.