Denzel Washington is arguably one of the most successful leading men in Hollywood. Thanks to a career that spans across 4 decades (from 1981- today), Washington enjoys an impressive net worth, an impressive Hollywood resume, and has multiple awards, nominations, and an art school named after him.
After his parents divorced when he was a teen, the future actor was sent to a private military academy. He avoided joining street gangs by participating in the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, which Denzel has been an advocate for and their official spokesperson ever since 1993. Thanks to his work with directors like Tony Scott and Spike Lee, Denzel Washington quickly became a household name and he remains a box office magnet. How did a kid from upstate New York become one of the most successful actors in Hollywood history?
10 Denzel Washington’s First On-Screen Role
Washington’s first onscreen role was a made for the TV movie titled Wilma. Soon afterward, he landed his first Hollywood role in the 1981 comedy-drama Carbon Copy, where he plays the long-lost son of a white businessman. The film is a commentary on race relations in America as the main character, played by the late George Segal, is forced to choose between being a father to his mixed-race child or his career.
9 Denzel Washington’s Time On Television
Washington dabbled in a few more roles before landing a spot on the popular TV drama St. Elsewhere, a show about the life of the employees of a teaching hospital. The show also launched the careers of several other actors, like Ed Begely Jr., Howie Mandel, David Morse, and Bruce Greenwood.
8 ‘Glory’ Was Denzel Washington’s Breakthrough Role
Glory, the award-winning film about a regiment fighting in the civil war, is one of the most popular war films ever made and it features the talents of Mathew Broderick, Brooklyn 9-9’s Andre Braugher, and Morgan Freeman. Other notable roles Washington took on around the same time were in films like For Queen and Country and Heart Condition. The film Glory would earn Washington an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
7 Spike Lee’s ‘Mo Better Blues’
This would be the first collaboration between Washington and director Spike Lee, who is famous for his films highlighting the struggles of Black Americans. In Mo Better Blues, Washington plays Bleak, a trumpet player who fights with one of his bandmates over who will be the band’s manager.
6 Denzel Washington Played Malcolm X
Soon after Mo Better Blues, Washington collaborated with Lee once again in what might be their most famous film together. Washington played the lead role in this biopic about the fighter for black liberation and his look, mannerisms, and voice matched Malcolm X so well that it earned Washington an Oscar nomination. Though he did not win, the loss was considered by some fans to be an upset. However, Washington says he was glad that he lost that Oscar to Al Pacino, who won for Scent Of A Woman.
5 The Films Denzel Washington Did In 1993
Following the success of Malcolm X, Washington found himself in high demand as a leading role actor. 1993 was probably one of his busiest years as it was when he worked on some of his most notable roles. In this one year, he starred in films like Much Ado About Nothing, The Pelican Brief, and Philadelphia. Philadelphia would end up being the film that cemented Tom Hanks’ legacy as a serious dramatic actor.
4 Denzel Washington Starred In ‘Remember the Titans’
In this film based on a true story about a black coach who integrates an all-white high school football team, Washington delivers one of his most popular performances. The film is considered an amazing commentary on American race relations, it’s also one of the most popular sports-bio films ever made.
3 ‘Training Day’ Won Denzel Washington An Academy Award
Like many Hollywood favorites, fans were anxious to know when Washington would finally get the recognition he deserves from the Academy. Although he won a trophy for Glory, fans were anxious to see him win one for a leading role. That recognition finally came in the early 2000s when Washington was nominated and won an Oscar for his role in Training Day where he plays a corrupt cop teaching a rookie, Ethan Hawke, his trade.
2 Denzel Washington’s Career From 2002 To 2020
Following his Oscar win, Washington went on to enjoy a sensational career in dramas and action films. Some of his most notable, and sometimes award-winning roles, include the remake of The Manchurian Candidate, Inside Man (another Oscar-nominated Spike Lee Joint), American Gangster (where he played infamous Harlem gangster and drug lord Frank Lucas), Deja Vu, Flight, and The Equalizer 1 and 2. The Equalizer has since been turned into a TV series on Peacock starring Queen Latifah.
1 Denzel Washington’s Net Worth And Salary
Thanks to his successful and highly commendable career, Denzel Washington now sits on a net worth of $280 million and he makes an average of $60 million a year. Now in his late 60s, Washington has begun directing. His directorial debut was Fences starring Viola Davis in 2016 and his 2021 film A Journal For Jordan stars Michael B. Jordan and Chante Adams. He also directed for Grey’s Anatomy. In a recent New York Times profile story, Washington says he was drawn to directing because he wants to be in a position to “help other actors.” Between his benevolent advocacy for underprivileged youths, his advocacy for struggling actors, and his track record as one of the best actors in Hollywood, is it any wonder why this man is so admired and successful?