The One Role Denzel Washington Wishes He'd Agreed To Do

Denzel Washington undoubtedly is one of the best actors of his generation. His films are often either critically lauded, financially successful, or often both. He moves adroitly between intense personal dramas, Shakespeare, sci-fi blockbusters, and even the occasional horror film ("Fallen" and "The Tragedy of Macbeth" remain the actor's only straight-up supernatural thrillers, unless you also count 1990's "Heart Condition"). Even if his films do occasionally bomb or garner bad reviews, Washington himself is never the uncommitted party. He has been nominated for ten Academy Awards, and has won two. He was once one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood.

Because of his continued success, Washington has earned the coveted right of being able to turn down whatever scripts he wants. In an interview with Playboy in 2013, the writer points out that Washington, while filming "Out of Time" in Miami, was approached by several talented directors about his possible appearance in their projects: Joel Schumacher wanted Washington for a thriller called "Sleepwalker." David Mamet and Ron Howard wanted to hire him as well. Washington has long been in the enviable position of being in demand, granted the leeway to turn down whatever he wants. 

In the mid-1990s, Washington received a script that he turned down, citing that it was too "demonic" for his tastes. In a Thrillist "Off Script" interview with Jamie Foxx, Washington revealed what that film was and what role he would have played: David Fincher's 1995 serial killer hit "Seven," wherein he would play Det. David Mills (the role that would eventually go to Brad Pitt). He regrets not acting in "Seven."

Too demonic

In the Playboy interview, Washington was asked about the difficulty of Black actors, of ageism in Hollywood, and whether or not his race prevented him from getting roles. In that interview, he brings up "Seven," and his dismay is passing on it: 

"'Seven' was brought to me years ago. I said no. Brad Pitt wound up playing the part. Go figure. I blew that one. In general I've never been one to go after stuff. I'm not out shmoozing. There are enough roles out there for me, and they seem to come along regularly enough. Since my recent Oscar win, I'm getting more offers, though there's a lot of garbage out there, too. It's always hard to find good material."

In the Thrillist interview above — wherein Washington and Foxx josh each other and seem to be having just the most wonderful time — Foxx asked Washington how many times he says "no" to a script, and if he regrets anything. Washington brought up "Seven" again. 

"I turned down 'Seven.' They wanted me to play the Brad Pitt role. I thought the script was too demonic. Then I saw the movie, and I was like 'Aw. I blew it.' But it's worked out alright."

The Century Cycle

Washington, now 67, has directed four feature films ("Antwone Fisher," "The Great Debaters," "Fences," and "A Journal for Jordan") and, in the Playboy interview, said — after making "Fisher" — that he wanted to continue to direct. The direct quote was: 

"Sean Penn didn't retire from acting and I don't think I will, but I'm hooked. I want to direct another picture — absolutely. God willing, I'll be directing the rest of my life."

He is making good on that promise. Washington is also behind an epic filmmaking project to adapt the complete Century Cycle of playwright August Wilson to the big screen. Of Wilson's 10-play cycle, Washington has already overseen two of them: "Fences" and "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," which he produced. Washington is only becoming more artistically ambitious as his career continues — I personally cannot wait for the remaining eight films in the Century Cycle — and clearly doesn't seem to have any more issues looking for work. With a seemingly large amount of artistic freedom, Washington is following his heart, supporting the kind of art he seemingly wants to experience. 

For my own personal edification, I hope that his heart eventually points him to "Virtuosity 2."