Denzel Washington in The Little Things

The Little Things marked the first time in three years Denzel Washington had graced the silver screen. The Oscar winner wasn’t resting on his laurels; he was busy producing and directing other projects. His directing efforts have been taken up a considerable amount of time, yielding remarkable results. As directing becomes a more prominent part of his career, Washington revealed some advice Steven Spielberg gave him that has stuck to this day.

In recent years, Denzel Washington's on-screen presence has taken a back seat as he directs and produces more. His work behind the camera has garnered as much acclaim as his acting career. The two-time Oscar winner recently spoke with Financial Times about his film The Little Things along with other topics. The conversation soon turned to Washington's time in the director’s chair. He spoke about the advice Steven Spielberg had given him early in his directing career, saying:

Steven told me years ago, when I was nervous about making movies: ‘Everybody steals, Denzel, but make sure to steal from the best.’ I’ve been re-watching Coppola’s Godfather movies and stealing shots from them. And I’ll be stealing from Spielberg as well.

Denzel Washington’s candor was refreshing and honest as he spoke about being influenced by Steve Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola. Like many filmmakers, the actor was affected by those who came before him. Given the films he’s directed and produced, their styles have definitely rubbed off on him. Every great filmmaker from Spielberg to Coppola to Martin Scorsese have revealed how films and directors influencing their work. So, honestly, Washington is just following the path forged before him.

But Denzel Washington’s directing efforts, just like his illustrious acting career, have a certain amount of gravitas. In recent years, he directed, produced and starred in the Oscar-nominated film Fences, which score multiple award nominations and wins. Other acclaimed films directed by the actor include 2002’s Antwone Fisher and 2007’s The Great Debaters. Like many Black filmmakers, Washington chose to focus on spotlighting distinct aspects of the Black American experience. His next directing effort will follow the tradition as he helms an adaptation of Dana Canedy’s memoir Journal for Jordan with Michael B. Jordan and Chane Adams in the lead roles. He has been one of the few actor-turned-directors who has managed to direct amazing work that measures up to their acting career.

Denzel Washington hasn’t left acting behind completely as he will appear in The Tragedy of Macbeth. As Washington retreats more behind the camera, the influence of other filmmakers can be seen in his direction and style choices. But his film choices proved just how much he cares about the final product just like Steven Spielberg. If you want to get into more Washington-helmed films, you find them on streaming platforms such as Hulu and Prime Video.

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