With a pair of Oscars and a paycheck of $20 million a movie, Denzel Washington no longer jumps when the phone rings. But he still drops everything for his family.“Excuse me,” he says with a proud grin as he flips open his cell phone. “One of my sons is calling.”
On the contrary, Washington works all the time. He’s made 37 movies in the last 29 years, including Academy Award winners Philadelphia, Training Day and Glory.
Although he often plays good-guy roles, this month he appears in American Gangster as a really bad guy. Then, as if to reaffirm his versatility, Washington directs and stars in The Great Debaters, opening Christmas Day, a feel-good movie about a 1930s African American debate team and the inspiring coach (played by who else) who helps them take on Harvard.
Between edits on the film, Washington sat down with Reader’s Digest to talk about fame, fortune and why his personal happiness has little to do with any of that.
RD: What do you think your strengths are as an actor?
Washington: I don’t analyze myself. I put it out there, and it’s up to the people to interpret it. I keep it simple, try to continue my spiritual quest.
RD: Do you think of yourself as a spiritual person?
RD: In what way?
Washington: I read the Bible every day. I’m in my second pass-through now, in the Book of John. My pastor told me to start with the New Testament, so I did, maybe two years ago. Worked my way through it, then through the Old Testament. Now I’m back in the New Testament. It’s better the second time around.