Denzel Washington Tried To Learn As Much As He Could From Director Joel Coen, But Totally Got Bamboozled Once

Learning on set is something Denzel Washington has used to his advantage. He’s taken every opportunity to learn from great directors to help him in his directing career. Of course, working with Joel Coen on The Tragedy of Macbeth was no different for the two-time Oscar winner, but there was one moment where Washington posing a question led to him being bamboozled by Coen.

The Tragedy of Macbeth star has continued to be a film student despite being in Hollywood for decades. Even though he has a few films under his director’s belt, Denzel Washington wanted to learn from Joel Coen’s process as a filmmaker. The actor opened up to Collider about the one moment watching Coen seemingly backfired.

Everything. I was stealing too. I mean, he's a master. So, you wonder sometime, why over here? I remember asking him one time he was setting up a shot and I wasn't in it. I had my directors hat on, because I wasn't in that part of the scene. So, I said, ‘Now, I noticed you put the camera down here, like a lower angle. Are you making a statement? Is that a psychological thing? Or why'd you put the camera so low?’ He said, ‘Actually I just like the ceiling.’ I was like, ‘You like the ceiling?’ He said, ‘Yeah, look up’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah.’ He said, ‘Yeah, I like the way the ceiling looked’ I said, ‘So it was as simple as that?’

Sometimes you just want to film a beautiful ceiling. It seemed like the moment was a bit of a letdown for Denzel Washington. As a director, he thought Joel Coen was using the angle for a certain purpose, but it was simpler for the filmmaker, as he wanted the ceiling in the scene. Even someone as mythical as Washington can be bamboozled while pondering another director’s decisions.

Washington expanded on the incident by mentioning that Coen was prepared to film the Shakespearean adaptation. Joel Coen had storyboarded every scene and angle but was open to changes at a moment’s notice. The two-time Oscar winner took away from the director’s words that there’s room for improvisation, and if something isn’t working, you can try something else.

Of course, watching and observing other directors wasn’t anything new for the Fences star. Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola have been on his radar as well. Washington spilled that Spielberg advised him that all great directors steal from each other. Of course, Denzel Washington wasn’t immune to that approach as he watched and reused certain shots from Spielberg and Coppola’s works.

Understanding and studying the greats has paid off. Denzel Washington’s track record as a director has been almost as flawless as his acting resume. Just last year, he directed A Journal for Jordan with Michael B. Jordan, who admitted helped him prepare for his directorial debut Creed III. Jordan asked Washington plenty of questions and observed the way he ran his set. The two-time Oscar winner had previously directed the Oscar-nominated Fences, as well as Antwon Fisher and The Great Debaters.

Now the student has become the teacher. While Washington is leaning more toward directing, he is still in high demand as an actor given his exciting update about The Equalizer 3. Along with the sequel, more upcoming movies are coming down the pipeline. Of course, working with Coen led to Denzel Washington scoring an Oscar nomination, though he's facing serious competition from other actors, including Will Smith (for the second time) amongst the 2022 Oscar nominees.

Adreon Patterson
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A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).