By JOCELYN NOVECK, AP National Writer
Preparing to direct “A Journal for Jordan,” a bittersweet love story that opens on Christmas Day, Denzel Washington says he’s taken a “master class.”
This master class consisted of staring in a film directed by Joel Coen, âThe Tragedy of Macbeth,â which opens on the same day. “I steal the best,” Washington said with a smile.
Denzel Washington the actor has some 60 films to his name, plus two Oscars, and at 66 he is universally regarded as one of the greatest of all time. Denzel Washington the director has just completed his fourth feature film. âI don’t consider myself to be a director,â he said neutrally in an interview last week. “I keep learning.”
Before “A Journal for Jordan,” based on former New York Times editor-in-chief Dana Canedy’s book on her fiancÃ©, who fought and died in Iraq, and the life lessons journal he left to their baby, Washington’s most recent directorial effort was âFences. The 2016 film version of August Wilson’s play starred Washington himself and Oscar-winning Viola Davis.
Washington has also headed in his two other feature films – âThe Great Debatersâ in 2007 and âAntwone Fisherâ in 2002. But he says he prefers to stay offscreen when he’s at the helm.
âI’d rather not be in the movies,â he said. âAt first it was because I could raise the funds to make the movies. Then ‘Fences’ obviously we had a big hit on stage so it translated into a movie. But I like it. be a more behind-the-scenes guy.
Aside from his recent collaboration with Coen, who he calls “one of the greatest directors,” Washington says he’s sought input from other directors he admires.
âI had a great day with Paul Thomas Anderson about a month ago, listening to how he works,â he said. âAnd Steve McQueen, I talked a bit with. I’m learning how to do it, so I’m interested in learning from the best. So, I spoke to the best.
Michael B. Jordan says he too wants to learn from the best – which is why it was so important for him to be led by Washington. The actor gives a charismatic performance as Canedy’s fiance, 1st Sgt. Charles Monroe King, who was killed in Iraq in 2006 at the age of 48. (Canedy is performed by ChantÃ© Adams.)
âBeing able to work so closely with him was really important,â Jordan said in an interview. “It was a master class, honestly.”
âAs an actor you know, growing up, watching all of his movies, watching his performances and being curious about his process – like, ‘Dude, I wonder how the greatest of all time rehearses’ or how he breaks down his character, “thought Jordan. âHer character outlook is so layered. You really realize, ‘Oh, that’s what you’re Denzel for, get it! I’m doing great, but it’s the next level. ‘â
And Jordan said working with Washington is especially important given he’s about to embark on his own directorial debut, directing and starring in the upcoming âCreed IIIâ.
“Knowing that I was doing ‘Creed III’ next, he made a point of putting me aside a lot, you know? I was always kinda in his back pocket, looking and asking questions and (him) giving me little gems, âJordan said.
The actor recounted how Washington once asked him if he had a screenwriter – he hadn’t and had no plans to do so for several months – and within moments Washington was making the introductions. .
He said to me, ‘No, no, take one now,’ Jordan said. ‘He picked up his phone and called this guy, Warren Drummond. And he was like,’ Warren, this is D . I have Mike B. here, and he’s getting ready to direct ‘Creed III’. âWashington put Jordan on the phone, and soon a deal was made.
“So it’s from something as generous as that, he always gave me advice on what to look for because there is another layer – there are not a lot of people. who headed, âJordan said. “And that’s what’s really hard for me on this one. Washington,” Jordan said, “told him he had to ‘identify the few opinions that you’re really going to anchor your choices on because you won’t have it. time to go back to the monitors with each take and see what you got. “
Washington said the original plan was not for him to lead; he got involved in the project through his longtime production partner, Todd Black, 12 years ago, shortly after Canedy wrote his story. It took eight years to develop a script. When Washington saw the script, written by Virgil Williams, he said, âShoot, I’ll direct that! He says he was drawn to the beauty of the love story – sad, but uplifting.
Jordan, who was also attached to the project for several years before the film was made, says he found a lot to relate to in a father who kept a journal for his toddler son.
âI journal a lot and think about the legacy all the time,â Jordan says. âAnd one day have a family. And I think about my time on this Earth, and what do I do with it? “
But another main reason he stayed with the movie, as it developed and his own dance card filled up quickly in Hollywood, was Washington. âDenzel directing was a dream come true,â he says.
Washington says mentorship was important to him as well – starting with Fordham University English and drama professor Robinson Stone, “one of my first mentors who saw the potential I had.” .
âAnd just over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the greatest filmmakers of all time, so I steal the best,â he said. âTrying to learn from the best, from Spike (Lee) to Tony Scott, Ridley Scott, Norman Jewison, Richard Attenborough, Jonathan Demme. I take a bit of each of them and try to apply it to what I’m learning. to do.
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