At age 55, Denzel Washington plays a veteran railway engineer chasing after a runaway train in the high-octane action flick Unstoppable, loosely based on a real-life incident.
Metro met the charismatic yet modest two-time Academy Award-winning actor in Paris, where he has been promoting his latest film.
Unstoppable is your fifth movie with [director] Tony Scott. What’s the secret of your collaboration?
I love him! We had a lot of success together and we get along pretty well. We are good friends. He’s a good director and I trust him. And, he keeps calling me!
You had a humble upbringing in New York. Your latest film, about railway workers stuck in a crisis, sounds like a tribute to the American working class?
This is not the reason why I accepted the part in the movie, but it quickly became a tribute to the people we met where we filmed, in Ohio, in the west of Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Some of these regions are deprived, with a high unemployment rate and where people who have a job are working very hard to keep it.
Unstoppable is not only about a train running out of control. It’s also about problems the U.S. is living in right now.
You were the second African American man (after Sidney Poitier in 1958) to win the Oscar for Best Actor. Was he a big influence on you?
Not really as when I started acting, Sidney was already shooting comedies. He wasn’t playing in many dramas at that stage. And the only black star at the time was Richard Pryor, who was more like a comic.
Therefore, I had no references. I took theatre classes; people thought I was quite good and I liked it. I was dreaming of a career on Broadway, not on the big screen. Hollywood wasn’t such an appeal. I was more attracted by independent movies. I loved Taxi Driver, for instance.
Do you share the same values as your film’s character?
Not necessarily. Look, my character Frank Lucas in American Gangster is a murderer and a drug dealer, and I don’t share a thing with this guy! It’s the same thing with Alonzo Harris in Training Day.