Denzel Washington is funny; he just doesn’t do funny movies. People have told him how good he is with a joke, which he both agrees with, and doesn’t. “I’m quick. But being funny on purpose, take after take — I don’t know. It’s new territory.”
Indeed, he hasn’t done a full-on funny film since the ghost comedy “Heart Condition,” opposite Bob Hoskins in 1990. The only other straight-up comedy on his résumé is his debut, "Carbon Copy."
“2 Guns” isn’t a full-on comedy. It’s a ‘70s-style throwback thriller starring him and Mark Wahlberg as undercover government agents embroiled in the pursuit of a booty of stolen cash. The two longtime friends have great chemistry in their first professional collaboration, and the tone of the film allows them to goof around in between shoot-outs and scenes where Bill Paxton’s fearsome CIA heavy plays Russian roulette with his crotch.
“I’d been looking to stick my toe in the water,” Washington says about being funnier. “Especially coming off ‘Flight,’ I was looking to do something where I had more fun.” Wahlberg had already been attached to the production, based on Steven Grant’s comics, which was a big selling point for him. “Mark is not just funny, but he has a warmth and a heart about him that I’ve loved. I watched ‘Ted’ the other night. That’s a sick movie.” Not that he wanted to go that far. “I’m not ready to be spanked yet — not right out of the gate. But [Wahlberg] helped free me up, to go for it, to not worry about being silly.”
Wahlberg was happy it wasn’t the traditional kind of buddy comedy. “Usually they’ll take the comedy guy, the really out-there comedy guy, and put him with the straight guy. We didn’t want to do that,” Wahlberg explains. “We felt like the two had to be really formidable opponents, to earn that camaraderie, to earn that trust in one another.”
Asked how they handle comedy or drama, Wahlberg says there’s little difference. “I approach everything the same: I try to make it as real as possible,” he explains. “If you’re going to make people laugh or cry, it’s the same thing. But if I start doing pratfalls, someone please pull the plug.”
Washington just tries to integrate himself in his roles. “I try to bring my own personality to the parts, some kind of personal connection,” he explains. “The audience can maybe believe it a bit more.”
When asked which role is closest to the real him, he couldn't help but joke. “’Training Day.’ That’s who I am. That’s the real Denzel.”
Though a comic action film, “2 Guns” touches on real issues, including crooked government agencies, border relations and immigration. Washington maintains it’s not that serious.
“I saw ‘Fruitvale Station’ last night. It ain’t that,” he says. He said he teared up somewhere between when the girlfriend discovered the lead’s murder and when the mother did the same. “I was talking to my oldest daughter, and she said that with the Zimmerman trial it was the first time she’s dealt with these issues in her life. She was too young for Rodney King, and she studied history and civil rights. But for her generation, this is one of the first big moments.”
So fake it's not real
Don’t trust the Internet Movie Database, says Washignton. His own page is riddled with films he wasn’t in. “They have me as my first movie being ‘Death Wish.’ I wasn’t even an actor,” he says, laughing. “It says I was an ‘Alley Thug.’ In 1974 I actually was an alley thug.”