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Training Day Director Antoine Fuqua Talks The Moment He Knew He’d Caught Lightning In A Bottle With Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke in Training Day
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington have been a profitable duo in Hollywood for almost two decades. Most of their team-ups have been huge successes, from Training Day to the Equalizer franchise. But at one point, Fuqua was a music video director-turned-feature director just starting to make waves in the film industry. The then-rising movie director’s style caught the attention of Washington, leading to them working on the Oscar-nominated Training Day. And the Training Day director spoke recently about the moment he knew the consistent collaborators caught lightning in a bottle.

While the The Magnificent Seven director is renowned for his visual storytelling, Washington first noticed Fuqua’s skills in the cult classic The Replacement Killers. Upon seeing the action thriller, the two-time Oscar winner knew he and the young director would become “a good combination.” Upon looking back on the longtime partnership, the action-oriented filmmaker revealed to THR that he knew early on Training Day would be a success before it hit theaters.

I did, actually. It’s a weird feeling. When [Washington’s] Alonzo and his crew killed [drug dealer] Roger [Scott Glenn], in the car Denzel is saying to [Hawke’s] Jake, ‘This is chess, not checkers.’ I remember making a note on the script that if I can seduce the audience into agreeing with Alonzo, even a little bit, that was going to be something special. And when Denzel started telling Ethan, ’Roger sold dope to children,' he had tears in his eyes. He was so sincere. I said to Ethan — ‘I’ll never forget it,’ and Ethan can tell you this story — ‘You guys are getting nominated if you get this scene right.’ Ethan came up to me after filming, he put his arm around me, and goes, ’I really thought you were losing your mind. I thought, "Antoine’s completely losing his mind." But I was right.

Of course, Fuqua’s favorite moment is a pivotal scene in the crime thriller. Washington’s Alonzo made the scene with his emotional delivery after shooting a drug dealer. Seeing Ethan Hawke’s reaction pulled the scene together. Thankfully, Fuqua followed his instincts rather than heeding Hawke’s comment. But following Fuqua’s direction worked in both actors’ favor, as Washington and Hawke scored Oscar nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively, with the former nabbing his second Oscar.  

According to the The Guilty director, he and the Tragedy of Macbeth star formed a connection right away while filming the crime thriller. Directing someone of Washington’s caliber could be nerve-wracking for any director, especially on a big-budget Hollywood film. In the 57-year-old director’s case, he was excited to capture the record-setting Oscar nominee on film. While filming the cult classic, he remembered calming his nerves by checking in with the 67-year-old actor to see if a take was good. Proving he’s one of Hollywood’s most collaborative actors, the two-time Oscar winner didn’t check the playback by reassuring Fuqua that he trusted the rising director’s vision. That factoid shouldn't be surprising he vouched for Elvis' Austin Butler to director Baz Luhrmann after working together in a Broadway play. Learning these stories just added another layer to the behind-the-scene facts from the 2001 crime thriller.

The successful Hollywood collaborators have found a winning formula since the Oscar-nominated film. Washington led Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven remake along with the ongoing Equalizer franchise. The two men are teaming up once again for The Equalizer 3, in which Washington gave an exciting update after the script was finished and penciled the film into his schedule. The threequel will see another reunion happen as Washington will reunite with his Man on Fire co-star Dakota Fanning, nearly two decades after the 2004 action film became a runaway success.

It might be some time before the threequel happens as Antoine Fuqua has a full schedule now. He is preparing the Will Smith-led Civil War thriller Emancipation, which was reportedly pushed back to 2023 by Apple after facing a setback following the Oscar slap controversy. He even has the Hulu docuseries Legacy: The True Story of the L.A. Lakers, which will be released on August 15. In the meantime, there are upcoming movies to watch in 2022 to preoccupy yourself until more Equalizer 3 updates are announced.

Adreon Patterson
News Writer

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).